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Thursday, January 25, 2018

In the Name of Play

Ann Sponberg Peterson writes:  

It is morning here in Windhoek as I write this brief entry and our crew is packing up to leave Namibia headed to Cape Town.  Most of us did as much hand wash laundry yesterday as we could, knowing this would soon be a luxury on the Western Cape.  My inventory of clean garments indicates I’m good to go!

This packing to fly scenario is now slightly more complicated, however, as we’re arranging the many gifts we have received en route from our exceptionally generous friends.  OK, to be true, we’ve also made some purchases for loved ones back home as well … which means every one of us is evaluating our luggage space. 

Empowering Learners remains indebted to the nine fellow travelers who very kindly packed a One World Futbol® (read composite blue soccer ball) in their checked baggage coming over.  These nine soccer balls added to the eleven I had packed in, meant we had plenty to share.  So, in addition to the other educational supplies we brought, we gave these virtually indestructible soccer balls to schools and learners all along the way in the North.   

Tall human giving a big blue soccer ball to a small child means instant play time!  

To the delight of all, we know these soccer balls will have good long lives in the hands of growing learners.  I also invite you to search One World Futbol® and consider a future purchase. This is a marvelously good cause doing good work in the name of fitness and play and peace.   


More updates to come.  
Empowering Learners.    

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Welcome Home to Mama Africa

Ann Sponberg Peterson writes:  

Upon arriving in the North, our first morning was spent visiting the ELCIN (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia) Head Office.  Gregory and I always enjoy this visit since it means attending morning worship with the synod staff and, if we’re lucky, a meeting with the Presiding Bishop of the ELCIN.  We were lucky this time and Bishop Nambala was in and he was most generous with is time. 

Following worship, we moved into the Board Room and sat around the enormous conference table and also along the outer wall.  The Bishop invited each person present to speak and introduce themselves. 

It becomes very clear that the Bishop is also a Professor.   

The Bishop began to make the many connections between us.  He suggested that Americans were linear thinkers – straight forward, straight ahead, and forward moving despite all.  He elaborated that Africans are circular thinkers – always seeing around them looking for the wholeness of things, and coming back around again and again. 

“It’s why your houses use straight walls and corners,” he said.  “And our houses are round.”   

The Bishop remarked about the US and our role and responsibility as a super power in the world.  He tread gently near the tone and tenor of the current words from our country’s leadership.  And he reminded us all of our genetic makeup … that we are all brothers and sisters of Africa, that we owe our very existence to Mother Africa, as she is the birthplace of human kind. 

“So, welcome home my brothers and sisters,” said the Bishop, “welcome home.”  Thank you, Bishop.  We feel generously welcomed and at home and blessed to be with our ELCIN friends and family.   

During our visit, I was delighted to meet the Rev. Efraim Iyongo, the (Interim) Director of Education for the ELCIN.  We’re now connected by email and mobile, which I am most thankful for.  As we were walking together later in the day, he explained to me that he was a graduate of Paulinum Seminary in Windhoek, but that he knew of the NE Iowa Synod of the ELCA.  How I asked, even though we are companion synods.  His answer charmed me beyond measure, “I worked for a summer at EWALU Summer Camp in Strawberry Point.”  Of course, I thought, insert it’s-a-small-world-doubly-so-if-you’re-Lutheran comment here!

He added that having been at EWALU, allowed him visits to Decorah.  I did not ask if he had ridden on the EWALU float in our Nordic Fest Parade!  There’s a limit after all.  Eating lefsa, counting tractors in the parade, comparing meatball recipes – it just all seemed too far away at the moment.

It feels like home more than we could imagine as we acknowledge the round abouts of our connectedness.  We’re headed to Etosha National Park for two days of safari life, so this blog will be off the grid for a while.  Plenty of writing, just no posting.

Thank you readers. 

Empowering Learners. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Rains and Blessings

Ann Sponberg Peterson writes:  

It was four years ago in January 2014 when I left the Africa Choir group for a day to be with Lamek Kafidi, Director of Education for the Oshikoto Region, to travel to Ongenga, his home town.  You can read that archived blog post (The Rains Have Come to Ovamboland) if you page back on this blog site.  That particular day we off-roaded through the heavy rains and muddy ruts to get to the Josef Shifeta Primary School to deliver 10 laptops for the 500+ learners and 20 teachers there.  I’m happy to report those laptops and the additional desk tops given through Empowering Learners are functioning well. 

While the drought continues here in the North of Namibia, we understand we’ll be headed into dire drought conditions in South Africa.  Water rationing is a reality and has become a political and civic nightmare.  Baths and showers will be limited and very short.  And many of us will be transitioning to soda pop since bottled water may not always be available.  The Cape Town Reservoir is only at 28% capacity.  News reports say that Cape Town may actually run out of water.  What happens then?  Goodness knows. 

But back to Ovamboland.

Experiences abound and I’ll have enough to keep me blogging for a few more entries!  In short let me say that despite not having actually been here for four years, the work of Empowering Learners is having an impact and this is deeply gratifying.  The books and computers sent here via our sea container deliveries are very much present and being used at all the schools we’ve visited.  Hallelujah!  What a joy it is to see happy learners, well-stocked libraries, and functioning computer laps.

But let me tell you first about the rain. 

After an Inauguration of the School Library at Josef Shifeta Primary School – which quite wonderfully was named in our honor – we retired to the Jonas and Rauna Kafidi homestead in rural Ongenga.  This homestead was our overnight stay for the entire group and was the growing-up-farm-place for our dear friends Namupa Kafidi Nengola (center), Lamek Kafidi (right), and Kondjeni Kafidi (left) – yes Gustavus readers, I have found Dr. Kondjeni Kafidi, class of 1984, and he is soon to be back among our mail-receiving alumni ranks!



Namupa had made arrangements with her parents and two of her brothers that our entire group of 26 would sleep at the farm and the adjoining homesteads.  It was marvelous.  We sat and visited together under the Marula trees, walked around the farm as the sun set, sipped our Tafels, enjoyed a braai of goat and pork and Oshifima, and wondered collectively how we would sleep in the heat.  We need not have worried about the sleep.  We were exhausted from the schedule and the sun and we fell asleep quickly.   

Then at 5:00 a.m. the sunrise heavens opened up to a deluge of rain.  Wow, what a sound this is when sleeping under a metal roof!  It poured and poured.  Lamek reminded me that it rained like this when we were last together.  Very kindly it is said that those who come and bring the rains are blessed.  Well … we’re surely blessed in many ways … but these blessings are to us from our hosts, not from us in any way.

I wondered how we would get back to the main road to meet our driver and bus.  Again, another unnecessary worry.  Usiel had already arrived at 7:00 a.m. and had driven through the sands and standing water to the homestead to retrieve us.  Africa continues to amaze!

Attached is a photo of the brand-new library named in our honor.  It stands opposite the new class room building named in honor of Namupa Kafidi Nengola, and diagonally from the original classroom block named for Kondjeni Kafidi.  Such wonderful company.  Our thanks to Mrs. Kayumbu, school principal, and the Ongenga School Council for this special honor.  As someone who loves libraries and who raises funds for the benefit of libraries (“academic cathedrals” I like to say) … this is a very special honor. 


I conclude with this short poem from the entry way of the Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library at Gustavus, and which I quoted during my brief dedication remarks. 

This is a library
Inspiring discovery
Championing truth against rumor
Defending intellectual freedom
Protecting privacy
Open to all
This is a library

May it be so.  Thanks readers!  More to come.
Empowering Learners