15 July, 2015

Busy is a good thing

Life here in Usakos is going well. I’ve been super busy with creating activities for the kids for their weekends, along with helping (and learning how to) tutor them in mainly math and English – reading, specifically. Thanks to a few people, I have gotten some great ideas on how to do this. This has become a wonderful learning experience for me, as well!

My clubs are going well. I gave the younger ones a quick nutrition lesson, and then asked them to take out their books and write or draw anything they would like. These kids love to be creative and learn. Some used crayons to draw. Some copied sentences from English textbooks. Some wanted me to write the alphabet on the board for them – and then we decided to write words for each letter. This is a CLUB – yet, these kids wanted to still LEARN! Amazing!

Here are some pics:

My youth clubs have been slow – as the older kids aren’t so keen on having to be in this club. But I told them this club is not required, and I am also slowly gaining their trust. So, I plan on having fun activities for them, as well as educational ones. Just yesterday, we had a nurse from the local hospital talk to the older children about birth control and safe sex. I plan on following up with them next week, and discussing how to use a condom, HIV/AIDS, and anything else sex-related. Mainly, I have learned that I need to teach them the biology of sexual organs, as well as pregnancy. Knowledge is power.

Also, we are so thankful to have received a wonderful donation from a friend. Because of this, we were able to purchase books, dictionaries and games for the kids! Everyday, I see these children picking up the books and reading them. Again, I am just amazed as to how much they WANT to read – even if they are struggling. With this donation, we are also able to provide the children with a fun Friday Pizza-Popcorn-and-Movie night! The mothers worked so hard to make these pizzas, and then we all sat back and enjoyed watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (some of the children had read this book in school, and when I told them I had the movie, they become SUPER excited to see it!).

Here are some pictures from that night:

I have also begun to realize, and try to help with, the psychosocial aspects the children experience, here at the orphanage. These are good children, but the reality is, many of them feel like this place is a “jail” to them. They get along with the other children, and the staff is amazingly supportive and loving – the problem is, this is not their true, real, biological family. Most of these children are here because their home-life is not conducive to healthy learning and living. Ideally, these kids are here temporarily. But many will stay here until they are 18. Side note – I think I have become the “cool Aunt” here – even the house mothers ask me to talk with certain children, at times when they are having a problem or not cooperating. I enjoy this. Though it’s new territory for me – but thanks to my social worker-friends, and my own “cool Aunts” as role-models,  I am slowly learning how to do this!

The staff here is amazing – they work together, are kind and loving towards the children, they CARE about their education and growth. My director is a hard-working, wonderful woman – who’s number 1 priority is the children. In the past, she has even given her own money to help the children when needed. This is the sort of woman I love to work for, and am motivated by to continue to challenge myself to make this Centre the best possible setting for these vulnerable children, who otherwise may have grown up in very unhealthy situations – which would have lead them to being uneducated, possible life of crime, living on the street, early pregnancy, and so much more.

As for me, I’m also studying for the GREs (hoping to take them in November) and taking an online course – which will help me create a program for these kids. More info to come on this – but if you’re interested (especially teachers!), it’s called Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots. Check it out – it’s all about Service Learning and guiding the children to help their community – the people, environment and/or animals. I hope to be able to do this with the children….

One last note – unfortunately, a sad one:
My loyal and wonderful friend and companion, Bear, had to be put to sleep last week. One day after his 18th birthday. I am so fortunate to have been able to have spent some time with him while I was home, visiting Nashville. He did remember me! And we had some good walks together. It’s been harder than I imagined – losing him, while I’m all the way over here, and not being there by his side. But I am slowly accepting it. Yes, tears fell. I miss that dog more than anything. I do feel guilt, that I came all the way over here – being selfish and leaving him. But I also know that I left him in wonderful hands to look after him, in a place he loved to roam around and chase the horses and sticks, if someone dares to spend all day throwing them for him! He was my buddy. Always there for me – and even knew when I was having a bad day and was upset. He would come right up to me, as if to say “I’m sorry you’re hurting. I’m here for you. Now, pet me and you’ll feel better!” And you know what, I always did J
You know, here in Namibia, Namibians ask me all the time if I have children. My answer is always “Yes – a dog and a cat”. And then they laugh. But, it’s true. And I did just lose my child. But I know it was his time to go. He was very old, and starting to be in a lot of pain. I am just thankful I was able to spend some time with him in May, before he left us.

I will always miss you Bear!

Peace & Love,


  1. I am so sorry for your loss Johanna. Bear's spirit will forever remain with you. Keep up the good work and the answers you need will come in God's time.

  2. I'm so sorry for your loss, All dogs go to heaven!

    Thank you for being such a great PCV.

    1. Thank you Jessica...and yes, I believe they all do go to heaven! At least Bear will :)
      Hope all is well with you!

  3. Sorry for your loss, our pets often mean more than can be described.

    When I was teenager, my parents were in an 'exchange program' that brought kids from Mississippi to stay with a host family in Wisconsin for a month of summer vacation. I'm not sure how we got involved, my parents were active in the fostering system and in various other groups, too. A bus load of children would come north and be sent out to host families. We didn't do anything special with them, just part of the normal family summer--mostly boring and a bit of camping. The whole group met together after two weeks for a picnic and to make sure everyone was working out in their placement, we did have a few movements. When the bus went back, some of the Wisconsin people went south to do volunteer work there or , in my sister's case, complete the exchange by staying for part of the holiday.
    An exchange program, even if it's with another orphanage, can broaden the view of everyone involved without costing too much.
    Just remember, even if it's just a temporary improvement,lifting a child lifts the future

    1. Thank you for that info. Sounds like an interesting program! And you're right - lifting a child does lift his/her future!