Thursday, June 26, 2014

We Will Hold Thumb For It

In the summer of 2011, Empowering Learners celebrated the successful shipment of a 40-foot sea container to the North of Namibia.  This sea container, filled with books and computers for the benefit of Oshigambo and Nkurenkuru Lutheran High Schools, was the result of months of fundraising.  It was a terrific achievement and many of us thought it might be quite some time before we could replicate those efforts. 

Well, with some amount of good fortune, recent generous gifts, capable leadership in Namibia, and through some very worthy partnerships, this effort has indeed been replicated … in fact it has been replicated two-fold. 

Empowering Learners is pleased to report that in partnership with Books for Africa and the United States Peace Corps, two more sea containers are en route to Walvis Bay, Namibia, for the benefit of school children in the North. 

These two containers, each weighing some 40,000 pounds, are filled, in part, with 23,000 donated library and text books, 30 refurbished DELL desktop computers, 30 external hard drives, multiple sets of Encyclopedia Britannica, multiple classroom map libraries, and more.  What a wonderful inventory!  These educational materials are bound for the Primary School in Oniipa, the library at Oshigambo High School, the Josef Shifeta Primary School in Ongenga, and the Nangombe Combined School in Okahao.  The pallets benefitting the Peace Corps project (15,000 more books!) are headed to a combined school near Rundu.  We’re grateful that a portion of our shipment is hitching a ride in their container.  

We also hear from our friends at Bollore Logistics in Walvis Bay, that the containers are (as of today) due to arrive in port on Wednesday, July 9. Once the containers clear customs they will be trucked to the North and delivered to the schools.  We look forward to hearing from our friends that everything has arrived in good order. 

I have written on previous occasions how wonderful it is to receive messages from our friends and loved ones in Namibia.  These messages usually arrive in the middle of the night and reading them in the morning makes for a lovely start to the day. 

Just recently in one of these exchanges I learned a new phrase.
“We will hold thumb for it.” 

This phase, I have learned, is an Afrikaans expression similar to our “keeping our fingers crossed.”  And so now, in addition to hoping that all is well, eager that the containers enjoy safe and secure passage, and being deeply grateful for so many friendships … I add to this recitation … We will hold thumb for it!        

God’s Work, Our Hands.  With fingers crossed and holding thumbs!  We will keep track in these coming days of the status of our containers, where they are en route, and we will share the hoped-for news of their arrival in the North. 

Thank you.  Thank you all for your generous gifts.
Blessings to you and yours!

Empowering Learners. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

With Thanks From Mr. Zulu!

I begin this brief update of our work by sharing a lovely note of thanks. 

Hello friends and how do you do out there in the US?  We are fine and so happy that we finally received our parcel from you via Oniipa.  It’s a wonderful package indeed. We shall surely put the items to very good use.  May I take this opportunity on behalf of the Principal and Staff to extend our gratitude to you for this gesture of good will.  We are so humbled by the gift that you gave to us indeed.  We would like to urge you to continue doing good unto the needy.  May the good Lord Almighty God abundantly bless you and the entire team for this gesture.

Such messages really put the wind in our wings!  

Mr. Rennyford Zulu is the head of sciences at ELCIN Nkurenkuru High School.  Gregory, Ethan, and I were privileged to meet Mr. Zulu when we visited the high school in July of 2013 in the company of our dear friend Pastor Henok.  Mr. Zulu along with Mr. Jesaya Chapwa, the head of school administration, showed us all around and we enjoyed getting to see this school in such detail.  Founded by the ELCIN in 1990, it is a terrific academy and they are doing very good work.

The “parcel” that Mr. Zulu is thanking us for was a tightly bound and sealed shipping box and a well-worn roll-aboard suitcase.  (The zipper on that roll-aboard was surely on its last journey but it held just as long as we needed it to!)  Enclosed in the bound box was a digital binocular biological compound microscope.  This microscope has a built in digital camera, which can connect by USB to any laptop or desktop.  We knew that the science hall at Nkurenkuru had an LCD projector, so we were sure that with such a powerful microscope, that now a whole classroom could view the research.  Also included in the roll-aboard was a package of 200 prepared biological slides – everything from plant material to fiber to blood cells – and 20 TI83 graphing calculators.  (And yes, indeed, it was these parcels that caused my delay in customs when we arrived … so worth the wait!)           

We’re pleased that the parcel arrived at Nkurenkuru and we thank our good friend, Reverend Shaanika, secretary of education for the ELCIN, for delivering it for us.  This past January getting to Nkurenkuru in the Kavango Region was just too far east for us to travel in such a short time, so we needed the capable courier service of our friends based in Oniipa.    

We say it in every presentation we make and in every thank you note we send – the gifts from so many are helping so many!  From building kindergartens, to shipping books and computers, to carrying in educational materials, the work of Empowering Learners is focused by mission and need and yet broadly beneficial.  

And we simply could not secure and deliver these gifts without the generous support of our friends and family.  Thank you all. 

In just a matter of days another 40-foot sea container filled with books and computers will be packed and will start on its way to the North of Namibia.  More on this terrific development in our next entry.  Once again our thanks to so many for so much!

Empowering Learners.       

This is a quick view of the Library at ELCIN Nkurenkuru High School.  Those encyclopedias seen here on the shelves arrived via our first sea-container shipment in August 2011.  Mr. Thikerete Belzo is the school librarian and as of last July he said he was still adding to the library collection from our shipment of books.    

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Road to Oshigwedha

Last summer when Ethan, Gregory, and I were traveling together we had the pleasure of spending a few whole days with our dear friend Pastor Henok.  Our conversation topics were many, wide-ranging, and happy.

The four of us were pleased that the construction of the Reverend Philippus N. Henok Kindergarten had gone so smoothly and had turned out so nicely.   To see photos and read our recollection of that lovely occasion, please scroll back and read the posted entry entitled A Banner Day. 

And so we began a new conversation with Pastor Henok last July, of another "kindergarten in need” within the Oniipa Parish – Pastor Henok said the next few months would be very busy but that he would remain in touch.   In late October, he got back to us via email, letting us know that if Empowering Learners could assist with funding a new kindergarten in Oshigwedha, six kilometers from the church, this would be much appreciated.   Without hesitation we said “yes” and we feel the description of this “kindergarten in need” is particularly powerful and worth sharing.

Pastor Henok told us this kindergarten in Oshigwedha was built by the villagers out of discarded beer bottles – and no -- you would not be alone if you needed to read that last phrase twice, as I did when I received the message.  Discarded beer bottles.  Not only did I need to see this building with my own eyes, I surely needed to meet the teacher who made it all happen. 

And so I did, on Thursday, January 16.  Pastor Henok and I drove from the ELCIN Offices to the kindergarten.  I always like to ride with Pastor Henok because he shares with his company a color commentary on everything around.  I was absorbed in all he was saying, looking to and fro, surveying the terrain, when just like that he turned left off the pavement, driving down into the ditch, and then along a rutted, sandy road.   

I looked over to his side and he was smiling … he knew he had caught me off guard and we laughed.   He said in a slightly raised voice over the noise of the off-roading, “We call these bush roads!”   “No kidding!” I called back.   (I remembered our drives together last summer in our rented Toyota Corolla.  Note to file:  always rent a four-wheel drive vehicle for driving in the north.) 

He explained that during the struggle, these were really the only roads between the farms and the villages since the main east-west paved road was frequently littered with land mines.   Here’s an aside … It dawned on me right then that I had always assumed it was the South African Police who mined the road in hopes of killing SWAPO fighters.  But now I realized it may actually have also been the SWAPO who mined the main road in hopes of retaliating against South African fighters … since surely the locals knew how to navigate this maze of bush roads.   This will go on my list of questions for my next visit.  I clearly need to learn more.

So these bush roads twisted and turned and crisscrossed and intersected.  Pastor Henok knew just where to turn after a certain fence post and before another split in the ruts.   After about a mile or so, on our right, we passed the Oshigwedha Junior Primary School.  I knew we must have been getting close.  We followed along another fence and then stopped.  I looked around and children were starting to come from different directions.  There it was … the building made of beer bottles and cement. 

On the doorstep of this building it says 2005. 

Meme Rauna, teacher and building engineer, with her little boy on her hip, was there to show me around.  I saw her worktable.  I saw her materials.  And on this first day of school I met a few of her learners.  It would still be about another week until all the children would be enrolled.  But those who were there were happy and full of smiles.

The current building is functional.   But I am pretty certain that Pastor Henok is worried about the long-term stability of the structure.   And given it’s remote off-road location, now is the chance to build a more lasting structure. 

The cost of building a single-room, bricks and mortar kindergarten, in the North of Namibia – complete with a lockable door, two windows, a pitched corrugated tin roof, and a cement floor – costs approximately $5,000 USD.  On this trip I presented our friend with the first installment.  In the coming days, I will send the balance.

Thank you, friends and family, for your charitable support through these many months.  Your kind generosity allows us to respond to such designated needs.  All gifts of all sizes are welcome in support of our partnership efforts.  The road to this new kindergarten has been a wonderful journey.  Thanks for being with us!

Empowering Learners.    

Below are a few more up close photos.  

This is the view from the inside.  It's really quite lovely when the sun shines through.

This little sweetie refused to smile until I took notice of her brand new back-to-school sandals.  Which I must admit were really pretty snazzy!  :)

Blessings everyone!