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!

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