26 May 2016 10:50am
WALVIS KIDS HAVEN A PARADISE FOR THE VULNERABLE
(NAMPA FEATURES SERVICE)
By Paulus Shiku
WALVIS BAY, 26 MAY (NAMPA - I was just a little thin boy without ambition or hope for a better life. This is the only place where I felt safe; a burden was taken off my shoulder, says Zachary Thompson*.
He is referring to the Walvis Bay Kids Haven where he has been living since 2009.
Now I have the desire to achieve goals and sport helps me forget my worries, Thompson, 19, tells Nampa.
Tears roll down his cheeks as he recounts his tough childhood. Life at home was a nightmare of physical abuse at the hands of his late mother, who was a single parent.
This is how I ended up in the orphanage - a place I now call home and where I will always return to after achieving my dream of becoming a medical doctor, says the eleventh grader.
He shares the home with 26 other orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) who are looked after by the homes staff, who also take them to school and encourage them to do well in school and achieve their dreams.
The shelter was started eight years ago by Maureen Baard, who is now its chairperson, to take care of OVC in the Erongo Region.
The playground is filled with children who are cheerful - free from physical abuse, sexual abuse and sleepless nights where they had to go to bed hungry. Some did not even go to school before they came to Walvis Bay Kids Haven.
But life is not entirely carefree as they are expected to follow rules and be disciplined, compassionate and responsible something which many also did not know before.
We also have children here living with HIV/Aids; this is the only safe home for them. We give them love and motivate them to achieve their dreams, says caretaker Anja Nel.
Despite their difficult past, these children still love and respect their parents.
Nel says parents are allowed to visit them and the children can also visit their parents.
But the parents of 10-year-old Giselle van Wyk never do so.
She was brought here a year ago from Henties Bay because her parents abandoned her.
Van Wyk says she misses her parents and wish they would visit her.
It was not good staying at home, and I love it here. When I finish school, I want to become a teacher, she says while licking an ice cream.
Cameron Smith, 18, also came here in 2009 with her two brothers and a sister.
They were taken in after their mother could not take care of them because of her alcohol and drug addiction.
As a little girl I saw all sorts of things I am not supposed to see such as drugs and other things I cannot mention. We did not have food on many days, says Smith, who comes across as strong as she did not cry while narrating her story.
Though she loves modelling, Smith, now in Grade 11, wants to be a police officer to stop the circulation of narcotics to avoid more families breaking up and children suffering.
The mother of the house, Nicolene Philander (real name), says it is not smooth sailing to take care of children, especially when there are 15 teenagers.
An average day at the shelter involves waking up, preparing breakfast, changing babies nappies, bathing babies, dropping children off at different schools, picking them up later, dropping some off at sports and other activities, bathing, preparing dinner and so on.
But the money to cover all costs is not enough.
She says they spend close to N.dollars 100 000 every month on food, fuel, clothes, workers salaries and child minders, entertainment for the children and more.
We are grateful to the community of Walvis Bay. Every day someone drops off food, clothes and other necessities. A mini-bus we got from Indongo Toyota was also a big relief as we can now drop and pick up children from school, said Philander.
They have also receive support from Namport and Langer Heinrich Uranium.
Namport is giving the shelter N.dollars 45 000 per month for 10 months, of which N.dollars 5 000 is kept aside to pay for children's further studies after Grade 12.
Namport Corporate Communications Officer Jo-Ann Stevens said giving back to the community is part of their social corporate responsibility and they are investigating the possibility of entering into a five-year relationship with the shelter.
Philander and Nel both seized the opportunity to thank all Good Samaritans for their support.
Philander pointed out that in the past three years, six of their children were legally adopted.
Despite these adoptions, there are still over 170 000 OVC in Namibia.
Statistics from the 2015/16 Namibia Statistics Agency show that 170 816 OVC receive Government grants by March this year. The number increased from 164 770 in January 2015.
Many of these children have been abandoned by their parents or parents simply cannot take care of them, sometimes because they suffer from alcohol and drug addiction.
*Aliases used to protect childrens identities