Experience report Internship with Usakos Needy Children Support Organization (UNCSO)

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
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
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
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
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