Just a quick update on things and life here in Katima Mulilo, Namibia.
First, the heat has come which now I realize means that it does not cool off in the night/early morning. Well, it does cool down a bit, but not much. I run my fan all night and still just sweat and sweat (my mosquito net seems to be totally impervious to the air from the fan). Fortunately, I find mosquitos more annoying than sweating, so I stay under the net, but I certainly understand why lots and lots of people refuse to sleep under a net in the heat (and hence, get malaria). The good part of this is that the road is warm enough and not too hot in the mornings to run barefoot, so my transition to full barefoot running is going fairly well (more on that on http://revruns.blogspot.com if you are interested).
The biggest community news is that Jesse, a VSO volunteer (ah, well now former-VSO, since she completed her contract in September) married to a Namibian, Immanuel, just gave birth to a bouncing baby boy! He’s adorable and very long. His hair is long, his fingers are long, even his toes are long!
We also have two new volunteers up here in Katima, both female—Marijke from Belgium who is here for 6 mo and Monica from Uganda who is here for 15 mo. Since Jesse completed and another guy, John O., also completed (he’s also married to a Namibian, so is still living here) and Joseph and John R. will finish in December at the end of the school year, after Marijke and I complete in March, Monica will be the last VSO in Katima. The exit of VSO from Namibia is beginning. In fact, on 8 November in Windhoek, VSO is having a big celebration of their work which will be the beginning of goodbye. VSO is pulling out of Namibia in part because it has now been designated as a “middle income country” (although, of course, this really only applies to the white population and the politicians) and in part because it has such a low population that the relative impact of any work here is very low from a Western, statistical, perspective. VSO is by no means alone in this “strategic” decision—most NGOs that have been here have already pulled out. Of course, it is probably true, in a theoretical sense, that the government could generate sufficient income to provide proper services, but it’s not doing so currently and they have quite a ways to go.
At Caprivi Hope for Life, we had a stressful September, not knowing if we would receive additional funding for our CLAAHA (Community-Led Action Against HIV & AIDS) program. If not, we would have had to lay off all the staff (including me, most likely, since I was funded by that same grant). In the end, we did receive the funding and so the program can continue until June. In the meantime, we need to raise money. The good news is that in the new budget, we have a Program & Operations Manager position and we hope to hire that person by 1 November, which means I can step back from day-to-day operations work, mentor that person, and focus on capacity-building projects (including resource mobilization). Right now, a lot of my time is being spent on interviewing—we just hired a Finance & Admin Officer, today will hire a new Admin Assistant, this week will interview for the CLAAHA Program Coordinator and hopefully next week interview for the Program & Ops Manager. Phew!
And next week we will do a training for our community promoters—a refresher for old promoters who are continuing with the program and a training for new promoters just joining us. The week after that, I will be down in Windhoek for the VSO celebration (and a meeting for Regional Representatives, which I was chosen to be, since it used to be Jesse). Then we’ll get our program underway again.
In December, my great friend Ruth will be coming for the holidays and my current idea is to actually travel around and see Namibia, most of which I haven’t seen at all. I know I’ll regret it if I don’t see it while I’m here, even though Etosha Park and Swakopmund and Opuwo and all that are much, much further away from me that Zambia or Zimbabwe or Botswana.