WINDHOEK. That’s Hildegunn and a bunch of very happy College of the Arts students, after putting on a musical starring over a hundred special-needs kids last night. [Updated with muuuuuch better photos from Thomas, another teacher at the college - August 21, 2012.] There had never been anything like it here. Yes I totally teared up. Yes it was when they sang “We Are the World.” The kids were beside themselves to be in the spotlight, and the packed house of families and friends were just as beside themselves to see them up there. You couldn’t help get swept up in it.
My own work that morning was on the tamer end of the scale: On the right below is my coworker Otilie Lamberth, a former primary teacher who got into community development and is now our coordinator for strengthening local organizations (she’s Damara, one of groups here who speak Khoekhoe, with all the groovy clicks – and yes that coat is no joke, it is COLD), and on the left is Rachel Coomer, who married a Namibian a few years back and is now public outreach manager for a place called the Legal Assistance Centre, which promotes human rights through projects ranging from land reform to prepping children so they can testify in court against men who’ve sexually abused them. Pact helped fund the court project: 89 children supported since 2009, seven convictions and counting.
The kicker for the orphanage report I’m writing is that after all our work to help the government put in safeguards, they won’t actually become law until parliament finally signs the long-overdue Child Care and Protection Bill, which by my boss’s count has been grinding through the system for 17 years. She suggested that as a spinoff to the report, I should dig around to see if I could do a one-pager to help push the finalized bill. Rachel came in to talk me through the advocacy she and her colleagues have been doing at the Legal Assistance Centre, and it looks like I now have my mission. If all goes well, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare will present our brief at a breakfast meeting with the law’s gatekeepers next month – and this could be the most significant thing I work on while I’m here. It could lead to other advocacy, too. Next post: I’ll lay out my strategy for the brief.