Tuesday, 23 August 2011


I've been asked many times about our daily lives now we've settled here a little more. Each day is different, of course, but I will attempt to answer (pictures courtesy of fellow volunteer Eveline).

Alex and I get up at 5:50am each morning and usually run in the local area or do something like yoga for half an hour. Running has really helped us to get to know the roads and the city, and as we've acclimatised we can run further. Now in a morning we can run into the city centre and back again, or up to the Katatura State Hospital and back. If we run in our local area, there's a children's playground where we're able to do some cheeky pull-ups on the playground bars, much to the amusement of the local dogs. Everyone in our area of Windhoek North has a dog, sometimes two. They create a huge row when people pass, and it's largely for security that people keep them. Our landlords, who live next to us, have two fabulous dogs (Snowy and Op-Tail, which means 'pick-up' in Afrikaans, as he was a rescued dog) who now greet us with wagging tails and nuzzling heads whenever we come home.

Op-Tail in our garden - and Snowy's back.

Work usually begins around 8am - on Mondays at the shelter we have the weekly Monday morning meeting, which starts with singing hymns and a prayer before discussing the issues, concerns and triumphs of the previous week. I've asked for a regular 20 minute slot at these meetings to discuss HIV/AIDS issues and run an activity around HIV/AIDS, self-esteem, discussing HIV with clients, etc. This week I conducted an assessment of the staff's HIV/AIDS knowledge - which was generally excellent, and they requested more technical information around ART, HIV and breastfeeding, as well as self-esteem activities and training on counselling skills. I'm really looking forward to getting this aspect underway and doing something every week - the Monday meeting is one of the only times everyone is together as the shelter relies on the care-takers undertaking shift work, so organising training for everyone at the same time isn't easy.
My office at the shelter

I'm also looking at the shelter's policies on HIV/AIDS, and also the Best Practice Model document which the shelter is writing. The government is rolling out shelters across the country and are using Friendly Haven as the model for best practice. I'm really impressed by the work that's been done so far and the passion of the women working here to keep going and get the work done no matter what, and despite the appalling level of funding.

With Mary at the office

There are some wonderful women at the shelter: In the office, Jacky, the shelter manager, is a woman with endless energy, ideas, and knowledge. The way she stands up for women and children' rights in meetings never fails to convince those around her - even the hard-hearted - and I believe her boundless passion is linked to her deep faith. Then there's Cecilia, who takes care of the admin and always has a funny story to tell. Mary, the Business Consultant, is from Kenya and has a dry sense of humour and a healthy disrespect for politicians. Loreen, the social worker, knows her stuff inside out and will always go the extra mile for the shelter clients and the community projects too. Then there are the caretakers, who look after the shelter's clients and take care of the shelter too. Lisianna is the senior caretaker, a very bright woman who is keen to learn more, work hard and with whom I'll be working on some of the training materials. There's also Amelia who is a real Mum and kind at heart, and Charmaine who can dress like no-one else. Joanna is the seamstress, creating beautiful items for the income-generation sewing project. And quiet, polite Martha tends the garden project and sells the food made by the caretakers.
Lisianna baking bread

Each day when I come to the shelter, bread is baking to be sold at the Women and Child Protection Unit at lunchtime, and I usually pick N$2 out of my wallet to buy a steaming, fresh bread bun to munch. The children at the shelter enjoy popping by my office at regular intervals throughout the day to say "Auntie, come look" at something they've made, or "Auntie, tail me op" (pick me up). Sometimes they get very cross because we lock the door when we're working and occasionally the sounds of a right tantrum waft across the yard.

Amelia in the Kitchen

Afrikaans is the main language spoken by the people working at the shelter, although English is mostly spoken in equal measure. Some speak Oshiwambo, and others speak Damara - one of the 'click' languages, said to be among the oldest languages in the world. I've asked one of the caretakers to give us some private lessons in Damara, and our attempts at forming the 'clicks' have produced general hilarity. Alex and I have also signed up for another German course at the Goethe centre here - 30% of the population speaks German - and we're also trying to teach ourselves Afrikaans. I'm picking up a bit from the children at the shelter - mostly the Afrikaans translation of 'look at this, it's a snake', 'plait my hair, Auntie' or 'Jonny horse fell down!'

In the evenings at the moment it gets dark around 6pm-7pm. In Namibia, people don't really tend to go out in the evenings, preferring instead to spend time with family members. Alex and I catch up with each other and cook dinner, sometimes we watch a film, and sometimes we learn something of one of the languages. I always try and play guitar each evening - I'm learning 'Mad World' at the moment - and occasionally we meet with other VSO volunteers for a drink, a film, dinner or theatre piece. We get to bed between 9:30pm and 10pm - so much for the partying!!

Organising a weekend lunch

Last weekend we were invited to the home of one of the participants of the training that Eveline and I attended in the first week of work at Lifeline. Hilarie and her husband Leonard welcomed Eveline and I into their home and for four hours we were plied with wonderful food (including 3 vegetarian dishes, very kindly cooked especially for me, and very much appreciated by all), wine and beer. Our hostess even cooked a cake there and then and we each had three big pieces. Eveline and I left tipsy, stuffed and very happy.

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