Susann Matthiesen (period of time 11.09. – 04.12.2012 and 14.01. – 26.02.2013) Experience report Internship with Usakos Needy Children Support Organization (UNCSO) Six months as a volunteer in Usakos / Namibia are now over. I supported the Usakos Needy Children Support Organization (UNCSO). It is a non-profit, private organization that works to improve the living conditions of children in Usakos. The project is funded by private donations, produced in Germany by the DeutschNamibianische Gesellschaft and conduced through the work of volunteers, like me. After school we provide to ensure, that children in need have a better basis of existence. The official website with all the information can be found at http://www.uncso.org/index.html. Usakos – a new home Usakos is located rather central in Namibia. It is a small city about 200 kilometers northwest of the capital Windhoek. All volunteers of the project (about 5-7 volunteers) live with the family of the organization leader Marianne Izaaks. Living with the family was very enriching. Izaaks family does not live in the township, but in the city of Usakos. Usakos – our house. The everyday life From Monday to Friday the Volunteers realize care of about 40 children of the Elifas Goaseb Primary School and the Erongosig Primary School (1st to 7th grade) in the township of Usakos (Hakaseb / Erongosig). The work generally consists of the preparation of the day, performing in the afternoon and implementation of special projects such as parents evenings, little trips, house visits to the parents or guardians, etc.. On a 'normal' day the first-and second-grade pupils come from school at 12 o´clock. They need to be cared for, before the little ones come we have to be done with the preparation of the day – mainly containing the worksheets for studytime. By 13 o´clock all other grades follow and the lunch of the children begins. From about 14 to 15 o´clock we are busy with the so-called "Study Time". It includes the homework and a kind of tutoring as well as support of the children with the help of worksheets. Each volunteer is responsible for it’s own class. Subsequent to 16 o´clock is the implementation of various activities and projects. There are different categories: (learning) games, art and crafts, theater, dance and music, talk, sports, hygiene education and other prevention e.g. HIV, etc. Giving out of the food Painting Hygiene days – Washing of the hair To get a comprehensive insight into the lives of children, it is permitted in addition to the house visits to attend primary school. On weekends we always have free time. I took the time to travel, but also to relax and unwind. Sossusvlei - Namibia Victoria falls – Sambia/ Simbabwe Impressions and experiences After my first visit to Southern Africa in 2011 I was very impressed by Namibia and wanted to go there again. I got the approval for the internship in Usakos and was glad to learn more about the country, its people and to experience their lives, as well. The six month in Namibia were a great addition to my lifeexperiences. I felt very comfortable in the country, enjoyed the scenery and the climate and felt integrated in Namibian everyday life. The work in the project gives me a lot of pleasure. I already knew before leaving Germany what I will have to deal with, but the true experience of the work and the everyday life with the kids was even more formatively. All children of the project come from the township of Usakos. Accordingly, it is good, that the children from the project get away from the streets for a few hours every day. In addition, many children do not get enough to eat at home. To teach them about hygiene we performed actions such as hair washing, taking showers, or washed their clothes. Furthermore the children brush their teeth daily after lunchtime. I often had the feeling that there is not much attention to the problems of hygiene outside the project. Generally the parents or guardians disappointed me several times (many children have no biological parents anymore and staying with relatives / friends). The own good of the parents/ legal guardians was apparently more important to them than the ones of their children. By the lack of interest of the parents/ legal guardian the contact with them was not particularly extensive. The living conditions of the children ranged from living in the stone house to live in shacks. Each house is more than busy with a large number of family members. I had big plans with the An example of the living conditions of our children. education of the kids, but the reaction of it was difficult. Our project leader Marianne always said: "Do not try to bring Europe to Africa." And to some extent she is correct. The children are very musically, once music starts dancing and singing goes, too. In other disciplines, they have great difficulty. They do not get the necessary support and motivation from their parents. Especially the education in public schools is unsatisfactory. If they want to divide (e.g. 21: 7), they draw circles around 21 strokes until seven circles are distributed. This concerns all grades up to grade seven. I tried to propose European levels of learning for mathematics, reading and writing. The education is at a low level so these standards are already a learning success. Expect for the education problem, the children have tremendous social skills. Sharing, helping each other and being equitable are examples of the great strength of all children. I noticed that the kids just wanted to be taken in the arm. The lack of love at home we could at least partially substitute and this seemed more important than any learning for school. The children are happy even though they have a unpleasant childhood. They do not know what they are missing, because they are only used to their simple surrounding. The children who are part of the project definitely have a lot more, than other children of the city. They are used to Presents and sometimes it seems like they were to demanding and not grateful enough. Order and discipline I often sought in vain but with the background knowledge of the living conditions of the children I developed understanding. When I was angry about a child and it smile the next moment , then it let me forgot all worries. I'm glad that I was practically worked before I am done with my studies and I think that I have personally developed through my experiences. It opened a wider view of events in the world for me. The language in the project and also at home was English most of the time, so I could also make gains. In addition to the new culture, I have come to appreciate - I was also conscious and can appreciate my home and Germany more. I would not have missed the experience here in Namibia and also to work with the children. I recommend everybody to do this or other projects abroad. I think I have something contributed to the lives of some children in Namibia pleasant for a few hours a day and that was a great feeling. Happy kids while Christmas Party in 2012 – just possible because of lot donations.
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