Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Odibo Activity Center

For close to a year fundraising and building took place to give the children of Odibo a preschool, these are photos of the structure and opening day.

End and Beginning

Dear Friends I know it has been a long time since there have been updates on our blog. A lot has happened in the past months. Much of what has happened has been very challenging. The short story is that we have ended our official tour as missionaries as of December 2010. I am currently back in Namibia following up on the training program and working with the Diocese on several projects. I will be adding updates to the blog that fill out our experience and share more stories of the work done in Namibia.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Trip South and Training Program

Well May and June were another two very busy months. I was in the North for a week with the training program and following up on a pre-school we are building and last week we traveled South to the outstations along the Orange River.
At Odibo in the North, about 1kilometer from the Angolan border, they have identified the need for an activity center for pre-k kids. We, through donations from the Diocese of Alabama, are funding the construction of a building that will be called the Odibo Activity Center. It will be a pre-school for local children and will initially have 50-60 children. These photos show where they have been trying to gather and the new building next door.

While I was in the North we had week six of the new clergy training program. Week 6 was dedicated to personal growth, counselling and HIV education. With funding from the Diocese of Alabama we invited trainers from LifeLine/ChildLine and Catholic AIDS Action to come and present for the week. Students gained valuable knowledge and skills to help them be the type of supportive and loving presence they will need to be as pastors in their communities. You can view photos by going to the Picasa Web Album. Click here to see the photos.

After a short break we decided to take a quick trip to the South. The trip lasted a week but was planned quickly. We wanted to get South because we had not been able to deliver the bibles and childrens books that had been donated to us by our friends in Alabama. Over a year ago we received 5 mail bags full of children's books from Grace Gilchrist, a retired school teacher from Christ Church in Tuscaloosa. We have been giving the books away to orphanages and other individuals but still have so many left. The challenge is to give them in a way that they will get used. We decided to take close to 100 of them south and give them to the outstations for their children. This photo shows one of the children in Noordower with a Curious George book. All of the kids that came that day got a book.

As I said before we took blankets and children's clothes and toys as well, but what people asked us for more than anything else was bibles. Each person wanted a bible of their own in a language they could understand. Around November last year I approached my friend Rev. Heidi Kenner at the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham and asked if they could donate money to purchase bibles that we could distribute. The Cathedral gave money to buy several hundred bibles. We have been giving them to outstations and groups but had not been back South since we purchased them. We took 3 cases of Oshikwanyama bibles with us and a case and a half of Afrikaans bibles. When we left, the Bible Society of Namibia had no Oshikwanyama or Afrikaans Bibles left. Their next order will come in July. We plan on asking for more money to repeat our distribution efforts. The Bibles cost about $10USD each. Here is a photo of one of the people in Noordower with a new Bible, blanket and children's book for her kids. We cannot thank Heidi and the Cathedral and Grace Gilchrist enough for their donations. All of the blankets, Bibles, and soccer balls were purchased with money donated from the Diocese of Alabama, as were our accommodations for the trip. The clothes, toys and transportation costs were donated by St. George's Cathedral in Windhoek.

We have added two Picasa Web Albums of our trip South that you can see by Clicking here for Part 1 and here for Part 2. Part 1 is from Noordower and Part 2 from Ausenkehr.
Each time we travel around the country it is a new experience. We thank God for the opportunity we have been given to serve here in Namibia. Seeing the joy on peoples faces at having their first Bible or knowing that they and their children will be a little less cold in the night because Christian people that they will never meet care about them is an amazing experience. One of the best parts for me is the opportunity to share Eucharist with our brothers and sisters in far out places and to baptize those wanting to join this community of faith. We had a Eucharist and baptisms on a very cold and windy night in Ausenkehr. We used a table for our altar and borrowed a mixing from our lodge for a font. Wine and water were carried in plastic bottles. We took a paten and chalice from the Cathedral and all stood in the light of one light bulb and altar candles to join together in love and praise. Here is just one photo from that night. The others are in Part 2 of the Web Albums.

Thank you again for all your support and prayers. We love and miss all our friends in the Diocese of Alabama. Blessings and Peace, Jeremy and Penny

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mother's Day, Almost

I know that it is still a week from Mother's Day and I should probably wait to post this but I have time today. I have been very slow in getting this post together. It is from my Mom's visit to Namibia in March. She came for two weeks and we tried to show her as much as possible in that time. After a less than warm welcome in the Airport in Germany she finally made it to Namibia. After a couple of days to recover from the 36 hours of travel, we took her to Etosha and she saw almost every animal there is to see. She even saw a Cheetah in the wild on her second day. People go for years of their life, who live here, and never see a Cheetah. Lions, Elephants, Black and White Rhinos, Giraffes, Zebras, you name it and she saw it. Everything except a Leopard which are next to impossible to see in the daytime. We came back to Windhoek for a day and she got to meet everyone from the Church then we went to the Coast and visited Swakopmund. We spent part of our second day in Walvis Bay, climbing Dune 7 and driving out on Pelican Point, where we saw seals and flamingos, and did I mention getting stuck in the sand. Well it only took us an hour to get out. We should have called our friend Mike earlier. After we had tried everything I could think of his first question was, "Did you let the air out of the tires?" Glad we called Mike. It was an awesome trip and so good to see Mom in real life and not just on Skype. It has been a long year and the trip was just what was needed. I have added a few more photos to a Picasa Web album that you can link to here. Hope everyone has a great day. Peace, J

Monday, April 12, 2010

Transforming Lives Part 2

The second group that we have been working with is the Namibian P.E.A.C.E Center. PEACE stands for People’s Education, Assistance and Counselling for Empowerment. Their mission is to assist people to overcome the negative impact of organised violence, including war, that has impacted the lives of thousands of Namibians. Our society has over the last years witnessed a steady increase in suicides and violent crimes, some of which may be attributed to unresolved psychosocial trauma. PEACE’s purpose is to ensure that people affected by violence and other traumatic events have increased access to psycho-social services and that there is an increased understanding of the impact of trauma.
In an effort to achieve this mission the PEACE Center has partnered with The Institute for the Healing of Memories in South Africa. Healing of Memories was created at the same time as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa to allow everyone to tell their stories of violence and abuse under the apartheid regime.

Penny and I participated in a Healing of Memories Workshop in mid January co-facilitated by PEACE and Fr. Michael Lapsley the Director of Healing of Memories. Fr. Lapsley is an Anglican priest who became a victim of the apartheid government in 1992 when he was sent a letter bomb intended to kill him. He lost both his hands and an eye but through that experience has developed a new vision of reconciliation. I encourage you to read his short bio at The Forgiveness Project. After attending the workshop, which included all manner of people from Namibia who had been affected by apartheid, Penny and I decided to help sponsor the next workshop with money that had been donated to our mission fund. We gave $5000.00 USD to the PEACE Center for a training in early March. It is an amazing project and we are happy to be involved in the long term wok of reconciliation in Namiba.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Transforming Lives Part 1

As part of our ongoing work of building relationships and sharing skills with the people of Namibia I have been asked by several organizations to help them with certain areas of their programs. I have turned down more invitations than I have accepted because I do not have the time or the energy. But two programs have gotten my attention and I would like to share a little about each.

The first is Lifeline/Childline. This is an organization that provides training and counselling in many areas of life. They have 24 hour help lines and suicide prevention hotlines. They serve Namibia through personal growth training and training in counselling skills and gender transformation programs. This last project is the one I have been working on.

It was recognized several years ago that most, if not all of the HIV/AIDS money in Namibia was going to projects that focused on women and children. While this was helpful it was also found to not be extremely effective in slowing the spread of HIV. There are many reasons why these programs did not have the impact that was hoped for, but one particular reason is how culture views gender. In Southern Africa women, in general, have very few rights. There are rights that are written into the constitution and laws that protect women and children but their enforcement is inconsistent and they do not provide the level of confidence needed for women to exercise these rights. Another aspect of this problem is the rural nature of the county and cultural expectations that abound around gender. Women generally do not have control over their reproductive health. If a husband comes home and demands sex from his wife, she dare not refuse, even if she knows he is HIV positive, or that he engages in risky behaviours outside of their marriage. Rape of young girls is common as is a sort of soft prostitution, girls as young as 11 or 12 giving sexual favours for a cell phone or can of coke. One friend who works in the HIV field told me once that to slow the spread of HIV they should give every 12 year old girl a cell phone and unlimited minutes. But I digress...

As a way of trying to combat the problem of gender when dealing with HIV a program was developed that specifically targets men and boys and attempts to transform their understanding of gender and help them transform their communities. It is a great program called Engaging Boys and Men in Gender Transformation. The full program is available here as a pdf so have a look.

Lifeline/ Childline is one of the Namibian partners for this program. My involvement started when conversations began about writing supplement to the program that would be spiritual in nature. The spiritual supplement was intended to engage religious leaders in gender transformation, using the Bible as its key text. I was asked to be the lead author for the Supplement. Over several months I wrote and presented the supplement to groups of reviewers from Namibia. They provided helpful feedback and the drafting process continued. We did a 3 days pilot training using the supplement materials in late February and had wonderful feedback and a desire for the materials immediately. We are very close to the end of the process and hopefully the Supplement will be printed and distributed with the manual before the end of May. I am very proud of my involvement in this project and hope that this program has the effect of transforming lives.

The New Year

So three months is probably the longest time we have gone without a blog post and I am very sorry for the delay. It seems just like yesterday when we took the Christmas photo. So today I am going to try and catch everyone up with a few blog entries. Rather than one long story about everything from New Years to now I am going to try and break it up. This way if you don’t have an extra 3 hours to read our blog (which I know, without doubt is what you would do with an extra 3 hours) then you can just read an entry and then come back later for more.

Penny and I began the year in silence. It’s not because we didn’t have anyone to spend it with but because we decided to attend a 10 day silent meditation retreat in South Africa from December 31 to Jan 10. I cannot describe the feeling of New Years Eve standing in silence looking out over a beautiful valley outside of Cape Town and knowing what was happening all over the world. That the calendar was turning and that the same hosts were doing the same shows and that the same bars will filled with the same people toasting another year gone and hoping for the one to come. The entire 10 days was an extremely intense experience. It was at the same time one of the most difficult and rewarding experience of our life. Here is a photo of the retreat center and the area surrounding.

Both before and after the 10 days of silence Penny and I spent a few days in Cape Town just relaxing and reflecting on 2009. We got to spend some time and have dinner with our friends Bishop Garth Counsell, his wife Marion and their family. Garth is the Bishop of Table Bay (Cape Town). He and Marion stayed with us last year over Holy Week and we had so much fun. They are truly a blessing to us and have provided much good council. Penny and I drove both ways to Cape Town from Namibia (14 hours) so we had a lot of time to talk and reconnect. It was a wonderful time and a very needed break.

On our return home we decided to finally take the plunge again and get a dog. It had been two years since our last dog Scroungie had died. Since we have been unable to find spiritual directors in Namibia we decided to see what God might teach us through a new furry friend. So just a few weeks into the new year we went to the SPCA and adopted DeeOGee.He is an incredible dog and has helped us remember not to take everything so seriously.