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Benevolence September 25, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Communication, Goodness, Home and away, Namibia, Ovitoto.
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Since I found out I would be coming to work in Namibia, my parents’ church in London, St Mary’s of Kilburn, has shown incredible support towards my placement. The parish and congregation were so generous in helping me with my fundraising prior to my departure, and have shown keen interest in my activities whilst I have been away. Every week they pray for “Isabelle in Namibia”, wishing me well and that I am kept safe from danger. I find this most overwhelming though, as, whilst my parents are active members in the congregation now, they have only been in the area for a few years, and I have only turned up on the rare occasion that I have been in London on a Sunday. But the parish overlooks time, and sees any new member as part of the family.

A few months before my parents came to visit, I asked them if they could do a collection of children’s books through the church, to donate to the school I work with in Ovitoto. Having seen the “library” at the school, and finding many of the few books were inappropriate for a school library (such as a travel book on how to travel by train across Central Asia), I was keen to try to make it better. Collecting from the community, the local primary school and using donated money to buy books online, they arrived laden down with a suitcase full of wonderful, colourful books, both old and brand new. In addition to this, the parish’s twin church, St James of West Hampstead, agreed to donate the collection from the annual St James’ Day celebration to the Ovitoto school – £165!

Receiving donated cash can be a little problematic, as I daren’t hand it straight to the school, as it could end up being pilfered away on who-knows-what. I was also wary about asking the school what they thought, as I was worried that they would take advantage of the situation, and again the money would be lost. I wanted to put the money to good use, that will benefit the children primarily, as well as the school itself, in an educational way. The K J Kapeua School isn’t too bad as far as African schools go: it has a solid, if not old and slightly battered, infrastructure; there is electricity and running water, and even 13 computers with a dubious internet connection (donated by some Finnish group 5 years ago); most of the desks and chairs are in one piece, and only a few windows per classroom are cracked or broken. The teachers are qualified and seem to enjoy their jobs, and whilst I may not agree on their teaching methods, they are making the most of what they know and the resources that they have.

So how to spend the money? Footballs and sports equipment is usually a winner, but with the thorny veld around, littered with broken glass, these are not sustainable options. Texts books are a good idea, but are expensive, so the money would only reach a handful of students. Something for the kids who live in the school hostels, like food rations or blankets, but what about the kids who don’t live in the hostel?

So finally I approached the Principal and the Life Science teacher and asked them. A computer printer or a television we decided. A printer would make it easier for printing out resources and work sheets for the learners, but to replace the ink is almost as much as the printer itself, and in this rural community, I doubt it would get replaced after it ran out. But a TV and DVD player could be used as a cop-out method of teaching, or be used just for entertainment purposes. However, if the TV and DVD player was offered with educational DVDs, then there is the full package right there. And so that is the decision. Courtesy of St James’ of West Hampstead, the K J Kapeua School will receive a brand new TV and DVD player to broaden their educational capacity. Hurrah. Sustainable, educational and beneficial to all. In theory. But this is the reality of donations in developing countries… you never know how the donation will end up being used, but you can hope for the best.

What warms me though is the charitable nature of the people in my community back home. Many of them don’t even know me, some know of me through my parents, but they are still willing to support the work I am doing. They heard about the cause and stepped up to help. Whether it is emptying your pocket of spare change, or throwing out the old books you no longer read, every little helps. And thanks to the collective generosity of the St Mary’s and St James’ congregations, a small rural village school in Namibia is going to benefit greatly.

So on behalf of the K J Kapeua School in Okandjira, Ovitoto, I would like to say a massive thank you to the St Mary’s and St James’ churches in NW6, London. And also to my parents who were so thoughtful in their selection of books that they sourced from charity shops and online stores, and who fought Air Namibia’s customs to bring the books over.

As the Hereros would say, OKUHEPA!

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