27 June, 2015

MY Club

Things are going great, here in Usakos! I am definitely very very busy….which I love.

This week, we decided to make a few changes, and add a few things for the kids. We were having study hour (M-Th 3-4) in the hall. Well, this didn’t seem to work because those who did not have homework and didn’t want to read, would just play and distract everyone else. So, we’ve split the children up, grouped by grade, and they stay in the houses. I place myself at a different house each day to help. And so far, this new arrangement seems to be a much more positive change – the children are able to study and do their homework more effectively, and even help each other when they have the same assignment. Go team CEC!

We have also started a club for the kids. We will have 2 – one for those 13 years of age and younger, and one for those 14 and older. We are naming them MY Club. MY Kid Club, and MY Teen Club. This is for THEM. We wanted the children to feel some sense of ownership with this. Of course, we will have educational activities, but I want to do things with them that THEY want to do – not what they’re always told to do. See, even though many of these kids visit their real families on weekends or holidays, this Centre is where they are living – at least for the moment. And sometimes, because the gates are locked so they don’t run away (which a few of them wanted to do last week), they feel like this place is a jail. I wanted to give them something of their own – not what every adult is telling them to do. So during our first MY Kid Club, when I explained that this club is for them – and we can do activities that THEY want to do, their reaction was great! They loved the idea. I also told them that they do not have to come if they don’t want to. Hopefully this will give them a sense of freedom of will.

Here is a picture with a few of the ideas they came up with for the club. (Notice “Reading”, “Math”, and “Teamwork” were things THEY chose!)



During this first session, I gave them each a notebook. It will only be used for the club – so I collect them all at the end of each session. For this particular session, I asked them to write something about themselves – anything. I gave them some ideas – name, age, favorite color, subject, hobby, etc. But they always get so worried that this is a test, or they will write the wrong thing. I assured them there was no wrong answer, and they could write anything they want! Pictures will be posted on the next blog post….

I also told them that they could use this book to send me private messages, comments, or questions. I explained that sometimes, they might feel embarrassed to ask a question in front of their friends, or they may have something to talk about that they don’t want anyone to know. Well, they can write their question or concern in this book, and then I, with the help of the HouseMothers, will respond to them – thru the use of the book. I think they’re still trying to figure out exactly what this means, but I’ll continue to encourage them to do this….(Thanks Crystal for this idea!)

They were then excited to decorate their books - with crayon and stickers! Though they used up all of our stickers (I should have known!), it was totally worth it...

Here are a few pics from the first MY Kid Club meeting:








Monday will be our first MY Teen Club. I’ll let you know how that goes….

I have also been researching my butt off on ways to get more funding for this Children’s Education Centre (CEC). In my next post, I’ll explain much more….

Until then…here is a picture of me, after about 6 children cornered me and wanted to braid my hair. I am learned that when around them, if my hair is not in a bun, it becomes an “all-access pass” for these kids to play with and braid my hair. Ah, but you gotta love them….



And here is one more picture of one of the cutest kids – she is 3 years old! And she is trying to learn English. But her favorite phrase is “This one”. Oh, and she loves to count anything – at least up to 10!



 And some pictures from my walk home the other day:





Thanks all for reading!


America has been in the news lately. Lots of ups and lots of downs. I just hope we can all find a way to live together in peace and harmony...through all of our differences and similarities. America is a pretty great country, and we, as Americans, have it pretty darn good – compared to many in other parts of the world, where freedoms are not a fundamental right for many. Let us keep remembering that….


#LoveWins,

Johanna 
(One of the children told me that the name “Johanna” is a Damara name! So I guess I now have an Owambo AND a Damara name. I'm officially Namibian.)


23 June, 2015

CEC Facebook Page

As promised, here is the facebook page for the
Children's Education Centre!

This is the organization I'm serving this year.
If you're on facebook, please "Like" and "Share"!

Thank you in advanced!

(Click on picture below:)







21 June, 2015

I'm baa-aaaaaack!

Hey world. Good to see you again. It’s been too too long, nay? (That’s Namibian for “right?”).

Well, what to say, what to say. I guess my last blog post was sometime in March….oops! So let me bring you up to date…


I finished off my 2 years as a PCV in the northern village in Namibia!! So, why, you ask, have I not written? Well, to be honest, I didn’t feel there was much to say…
I continued to have my Health Club at the school, which, pretty much was successful. We discussed cancer, disease prevention, TB, HIV/AIDS, nutrition, cuts&bruises, germs, and alcohol abuse.

I continued to work on my Court Project. I know I haven’t written much about this because, well, I won’t know until September if this is actually going to happen. So, I guess I don’t want to jinx it. But when I get the word that it’s a “GO!”, I promise I will be updating you!


So, you ask, where am I now?? Well, I’ve decided to stay a third year, here in Namibia. Generally, for the third year, we are allowed to either remain in our sites where we have been the last 2 years, or choose a different project. I decided to go for the latter. I wanted a different challenge.

But why stay??? Well, here are a few of my reasons:

  1. I want to finish this Court Project, and the chances of this happening are very good. BUT this would not occur until early January 2016.
  2. If I’m going to finish up this project, I might as well stay a full 3rd year to try something different
  3. I have not finished learning. I’ve decided to make my next career in International Development/Health. Having 3 years of international work can only be a good thing, and I guess I feel like I’m back in school…so I might as well learn here, internationally, instead of back in the States.
  4. Since I want to change my career, there is a high probability that I’ll have to go back to grad school. And they won’t accept my GRE scores from 15 years ago! So, I need to study and take them again. Again, I might as well study and take them here, in Namibia, while I’m gaining more experience.
  5. I realized that I needed to feel as if I had a satisfying service experience. I know that I wasn’t going to change the world, and although my last 2 years have been very educational and challenging, and I don’t regret anything, the fact is that I struggled, daily, to get projects accomplished or even begun. I’m hoping this third year will provide me the opportunity to really accomplish something.



And so, after a quick, month-long visit back in the States to see friends and family (which I terribly needed!), I am back in Nam for the year!! I’m staying in a different part of the country, in a town called Usakos (which means “grab the heal” in Damara or KKG). I am attempting to learn 2 new languages – Afrikaans (mainly) and Khoekhoegowab – one of the “click” languages of Namibia. Wish me luck! Usakos is located about an hour and a half from Swakopmund, the big coastal town (LOVE being so close to the ocean!), which is also my shopping town.  This means I need to go there to buy most things, but can still come back in one day (we do have a few small shops with the basics, but if I need more, I can go to Swakopmund, or even Karibib – which is about 30 minutes away).  And I’m about 3 hours from Windhoek, the capital. This is a nice change from the 8 hours away that I was while staying in the north! It’s definitely going to be a little different this year – as I’m now in a town, versus a village, and am with a different tribe – mainly the Nama tribe (though there are Damaras and Owambos here as well). Namas are mainly from the south of Namibia, but most of the people I’m surrounding by have moved here from the south, and are Nama.


Oh, and I’m working at an orphanage! I’m putting together a facebook page for this organization, so as soon as I get it up and running, I’ll make sure to share the link with you. This will give you a better idea of what we do. Currently, there are 24 kids, and they range in age from 3-20. Most of them are here because their homelife is unsafe. One of our goals is to eventually create programs to help empower and rehab the families, so these kids can return to their homes. They do actually visit the families on holidays and weekends sometimes, but are unable to stay there permanently, at least for now.


Here's video of a few of the children singing, as they welcomed me in my first day:




I live in a 2-room flat! I have electricity, a huge bed, a shower, hot water, a small fridge, and 2 hot plates!! Definitely a change from the hut and village life. I feel very lucky to have these things this year.  It also gives me my own space – to workout, relax, read, study, blog and work. I love it! Oh, and I live in a 3G area! Such a difference from last year!
Here are a few pics:









Every morning (M-F), I go to our main office, which is about a 20 minute walk away. But they have a driver, who takes the kids to school, and myself and the Head Housemother to the office. I’m sure there will be days I walk – it’s a pretty area…..here’s a pic:



My main job is to create educational, fun programs for the children, especially on weekends (Saturdays, mainly) and holidays. The kids remain here all the time, and sometimes, it feels like “jail” to them. And the mothers/caregivers need new ideas. So this is where I come in. Also, I will be helping my director find other forms of sponsorship. We have funding, at the moment, from a group in the Netherlands, but this money only covers the salaries of the staff, food and utilities at the Centre, and other operational costs. It does not cover the cost of programs, outside activities, or other entertainment, such as a new playground. I will be putting feelers out to seek sponsorship within the coming months, but if you, or anyone you know, would be interested in this sort of donation (on an annual basis, not just a one-time donation) please reach out to me!

Well, that’s about it for now….I promise to be better this year at blogging :)
Thank you to all of you who read this! It means the world to me, and I hope I am able to communicate effectively what it’s truly like over here, in Namibia. Again, I highly recommend everyone to travel as much as they can – even to a developing country! And if you’re able, join the Peace Corps!!

Here are some slideshows, to help bring you all up-to-date….

My group’s Shitoga Party, to celebrate the end of our 2 years! (Shitange, which is what the material is called, + Toga = Shitoga!):


A few pics of the town of Usakos:



The CEC (Children’s Education Centre):



Taking the kids hiking this past Saturday:



Oh, and here are a few pictures from the village…with my little Nikon V1, I was able to somewhat get a picture of the Namibia sky :)





Peace & Love,
Johanna