After Alan Corrigan and I (Marcel Bang) set down our luggage at our room in Windhuk we drove first to the Hand in Hand for Children children’s home. We were curious about what to expect there. The very driving to the children’s home is a persistent experience, although not a nice one. One passes the old cemetery of Windhuk. Thousands of graves are quiet witnesses for the mass dying of people of Aids and tuberculosis. Most of the graves are humble, only a cross or a small stone, otherwise nothing but sand.
So much the better if one sees this colorful, bright stone house. About 40 children jump around the playground and they are overjoyed when they spot Alan. We are overwhelmed, the little rascals start spontaneously to sing for our welcome and their joy about our visit (especially of Alan’s because the children know him nearly three years now) is really touching. The house is in an excellent condition. It is clean, neat and the garden is cultivated well. The head of the house, Belinda, welcomes us in the kitchen. Belinda is busy preparing popcorn. Later it will be packed in small bags and sold to the people in Katutura for 50 Namibian Cent (ca. 0,6 €-Cent). By this Belinda and her ladies earn a little money in addition which is badly needed. Belinda and the other women take care of about 40 – 60 children each day in the Hand in Hand for Children children’s home. The children are given not only a shelter during the day but also a hot meal each day. There is preschool education and on the traffic playground installed by Hand in Hand for Children the correct conduct in traffic is taught. Some of these children do not have parents anymore and it is all the more important for them to grow up in a social environment.
Here they get love, care and encouragement. The house is a place where they are welcome, an essential criterion for a child. We continue driving to Katutura. The surroundings become gloomy. Everywhere is dirt, sand and misery. The slum quarters continue for square kilometers. Sheet huts, most of them not the size of three or four square meters, string together. None has electricity or sanitary facilities. Hardly imaginable that people live here. But still: hundreds of thousands stay here their whole life. A life in poverty, unemployment, illness and lack of prospects. A surroundings provoking aggression. It is understandable that alcoholism and violence become the natural course of things.
Who is forced to stay at a place called in the national language
“place where we do not want to live” (translation of
“Katutura”) escapes into oblivion and lives the strong-man rule. The Hand in Hand for Children soup kitchen is located on a hill. Highly visible. A masonry building which is a visible mark of hope for many children over a long distance. Each day 250 – 300 children are provided with a hot meal. The only one per day. Without this soup kitchen they would get anything to eat probably only once per week. This wonderful facility is managed by Patricia Sola. Patricia Sola is foundress of the “Child Hope Initiative” which started the project of the soup kitchen. Several years ago Patricia arrived at Katutura and saw the children’s hardship beyond words. She decided to do something within her means.
The following day she started to cook soup for some of the children and to hand it out. By and by more and more children arrived so that she faced an unsolvable challenge. When Hand in Hand for Children heard about this committed woman and her project it was decided to support her important activities. With the financial aid of the company Sebastian Deutschland the Hand in Hand for Children soup kitchen was built. A solid house made of stone, at that time the only solid building far and wide. To save costs and give work to the people from the region Hand in Hand carried out this project with architects and workers from the region. Since opening the soup kitchen in 2005 the stream of children has not dropped, quite the contrary. Much more facilities of this kind are needed to help thousands of other children in this place. Unfortunately, this cannot be realized by a small association like we are although we would like to do something. What Patricia shows us during our visit is something to be proud of. The building is neat, the kitchen is clean. Food is provided to the children reliably on schedule every day. The soup kitchen is an inherent part of the quarter Okahandja-Park, it even expanded.
On the one hand the team of the Special Olympics meets here in its conference room and does paperwork, on the other hand school teaching for preschoolers takes place. Some children are prepared for a later school enrollment in a so-called bridging-school and are taught the alphabet or the basics of mathematics. This is essential for their future life because in the shanties where they live nobody can teach them these basics.
35 percent of the children here are complete orphans, 40 percent half-orphans. Many of them are infected with the HI-virus, some of them even although both parents are verifiably negative. Children’s laughter still can be heard on the playground in front of the house. This is due to people like Sola who keeps her chin up: “I love these children more than anything!”
Another helping hand and friend of the association Hand in Hand for Children is the German former nurse Jutta Rohwer (in the meantime regrettably deceased). Since our first days in Namibia Jutta Rohwer helps always with words and deeds. At the same time she is Patricia Sola’s partner as far as the children are concerned. With utmost commitment Mrs Rohwer collects money for the little ones, mediates if there are problems with the authorities and also takes rigorous steps if somebody turns against the kids’ interests.
Jutta informs us about the use of the planted garden, the progress of the Special Olympic Team and the good cooperation with the women from Katutura who take care of the children. We are very happy that we initiated this project in Katutura because we realize again the importance of helping these children. Once again we make entirely aware that one can feed a child with only 21 Cent per day. By our standards this is almost nothing. Here it is everything!