In April 2023, 23 intrepid adventurers from North Lanarkshire will journey to Namibia, travelling across the vast Namib Desert, helping local communities with a variety of projects as they go. The majority of these will be done with the Topnaar Tribe, whom we will be staying with throughout the journey.
Representing the “Diamonds in the Community” charity, and with an average age of 55, the party will consist of a variety of ‘normal’ people from everyday walks of life. At one end of the scale, we will have 1 great grandfather and 4 grans, while at the other end, we will have a 23 year old support worker for a charity. With an age gap of 49 years between the youngest and oldest, many of those coming along are pushing themselves mentally and physically to undertake the trip.
Namibia is a country in Southern Africa. Its western border is the Atlantic Ocean; it shares land borders with Zambia and Angola to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. Although it does not border Zimbabwe, less than 200 metres (660 feet) of the Zambezi River separates the two countries. Namibia gained independence from South Africa on 21 March 1990, following the Namibian War of Independence.
There is a large economic divide among its citizenry and huge levels of poverty, with the income disparity amongst the highest in the world. Poverty is most prevalent in rural areas of the country and among women, as is often the case. Women head around 40 percent of households in Namibia, and these households are the poorest in the country. Half of the country’s population lives below the poverty line.
Namibia also faces a severe HIV/AIDS epidemic, in which 19.7 percent of the country is afflicted. As a result, life expectancy in the country has declined from 61 to 49 years.
With a population of only 2.6 million people, it is the 2nd least densely populated country in the world, due predominantly to the massive Namib Desert which runs for 2,000 kilometres. Coupled with the fact it is the driest country in Sub Saharan Africa, The Namib is almost completely uninhabited by humans except for several small settlements and indigenous pastoral groups, including the Topnaar tribe, whom we will be staying with and carrying out our main project.
Please note that everyone has self funded the actual trip, but we are raising money for a variety of crucial projects, listed below.
The main Project – Improving School Conditions for the Topnaar Tribe Children (JP Brand Primary School)
J. P. Brand Primary School is a small Government school located about 50km south east of Walvis Bay along the D1983 gravel road in the middle of the desert along the Kuiseb River in the Namib Naukluft Park. The school was built in 1978 by a foreign visitor with the name Jan Polar Brandt in response to the need for a school by the local marginalized Topnaar community. Being build some 44 years ago, no major renovation/upgrading has been done and the general appearance of the school premises as well as the fencing are rather in a dreary and dilapidated condition. The school has 10 teaching staff, 3 support staff, 19 hostel staff and 262 learners. Majority of the children attending the school here are from no-income to low-income households who are struggling to make a living, hence putting their children in the hostel so they can have at least three meals per day. Many of the children in the communities are forced to drop out of school at a young age, with only 2% of Topnaar students attending primary school lasting till the 12th grade. One of the biggest reasons for this is the distance many of the children have to walk to attend school, with girls in particular affected as they cannot endure the physical demands of walking the long distances.
Hostel Roof :- We are raising funds to build a new roof for the school dormitory, a project that was started by the late Chief Kootjie, but came to a halt when he passed away. This will enable more children to attend school, hopefully with less drop outs, as the long arduous journey which they have to make on a daily basis will be cut down from 5 days a week to once a week. The actual building of the dormitory will be carried out by local villagers and trades, thus giving them some much needed work and a small boost to their economy.
Safety Fencing :- The fencing around the school is very old, rusted and full of holes, therefore we need about 1,8m x 550m wired fencing. The school being located in the Namib Naukluft Park, the current condition of the fencing is dangerous for our learners as wild animals are roaming around freely. The most affordable quotation for that was about N$12 000
New Walls :- As was mentioned, there was no renovation done on the school premises. By the grace of God, we secured a donation of 30 x 20 l of outdoor paint which we requested for ALL THE OUTSIDE WALLS. However, we cannot just start painting. The walls are full of cracks and chaps thus need proper renovation, which is a costly process and we are looking for sponsors for this project. The quotation we have for this renovation ranges between N$20 000 to N$25 000, including material and labour.
Classroom Upgrade :- The paint referred to above will only cater for the outside of the buildings. The inside of the classrooms and the hostel rooms display gloomy with very dark colours that was painted upon building of the premises and had no retouch since, some for up to 30 years. This definitely affects the mood and the behaviour of the learners, and with the proceeds we will collect from the reunion, we are planning to give the inside of the buildings a proper facelift.
Staff Facilities :- • We are in the process to renovate the old library so that it can serve as accommodation for the Childcare Matron to make it possible for her to supervise her group of the Junior Primary girls. We are almost done with this project. There is also currently no ablution facilities for staff.
Project 2 – Helping Address Period Poverty with Sanitary Products and Underwear in association with Smalls for All
On our trip, we will be taking out hundreds of sanitary products and pieces of underwear for distribution amongst the females of the Topnaars and also in the shanty town area of Walvis Bay.
Period poverty has many consequences for women and girls in Namibia. According to Action Aid, “One in 10 girls in Africa miss school because they don’t have access to sanitary products, or because there aren’t safe, private toilets to use at school.” Many women and girls are also forced to use mattresses, clothes and newspapers every month because they cannot afford sanitary products.
A story from a girl who lives in Namibia reveals that she chose to get a contraceptive injection because her mother couldn’t afford pads. Contraceptive injections – a birth control method of releasing hormones like progesterone to stop the release of an egg – are free in all governmental hospitals in Namibia. Unfortunately, the injections have side effects, including significant bone mineral density loss, and are not intended for regulating menstruation. Another girl, also from Namibia, mentioned that dating older men is the only option that some girls have to get the money needed to afford pads.
Lack of underwear presents a similar problem. It is a health and hygiene problem for many poor African communities, as women often only own one pair of tattered pants or have none at all.
Project 3 – Donation of Sports Kit and Equipment in association with KitAid
In association with our friends at the amazing KitAid charity, for whom we are an ambassador organisation, we will also be taking out hundreds of pieces of sports equipment. The items we will be taking out includes football shirts, shorts, socks and boots, as well as tracksuits and training equipment. Very often, these are items stuck at the bottom of a drawer or in a box at the bottom of a storage pile, but are given a new home as a proud possession of communities that could be facing poverty, war or disease.
As well as giving people and sports clubs new kits to play in, many are used in conjunction with development and education projects. Founder Derrick Williams is delighted that once again the Trip to Namibia will further cement the links between DITC and the charity and said “We have a saying that ‘it's more than just a shirt’ and we see this often as the kit is used to engage with so many different community projects.
"These can range from health education, sports participation, crime prevention and even engagement with poachers to stop chimpanzees being killed in Uganda. KitAid is a volunteer based charity which reaches out across the world and shares the joy of football and sports participation.”
Project 4 :- School Twinning Up
As part of our trip to Namibia, we plan to forge mutually beneficial educational links between 2 local schools and the Topnaar school. Developing international connections in a fun and engaging way help children learn about each other’s lives as well as expand their knowledge of the world in which they live, and we are lucky to have 3 teachers amongst our group. The primary school project will centre on the children making a book about a ‘highland coo’ who leaves Scotland to go on a trip to Namibia. The book will show the Namibian children what life is like for children here, in a series of pictures, stories etc that our children will have chosen to share. The book will be delivered to the school in Namibia, where a similar book will be made, showing what life is like for a child in Namibia. This will allow children to learn about each other, find out the similarities and differences in their lives and celebrate their new partnership in a positive, collaborative and fun way.
Project 5 :- Introducing Walking Football
The team will take part in a mini tournament on a sand pitch in the Namib Desert with the Topnaar Tribe. It will be in memory of the late chief Kootcjie, and we will supply medals and strips. However, the twist will be that it is Walking football which we will be playing – something currently unavailable in Namibia. It has been proven that Walking Football can help people lose weight, help prevent loneliness and positively affect overall mental and physical health. Walking football has become increasingly popular over the last few years – and for good reason. Aimed at adults over 50, walking football has social, mental and physical health benefits.
Project 6 :- Sharing best practice with fellow Baby Banks
The vast majority of volunteers from ‘Monklands Baby and Family Clothing Aid’, along with ‘Baby Bank Scotland’, will be on the trip, and will be visiting local organisations with similar aims to not only donate items, but share best practice and look to set up an ongoing legacy where information and ideas can be shared going forward.
We appreciate that there is now an abundance of good cause and Go Fund Me pages. And we also appreciate that the majority of the above is aimed in a country far away from Airdrie - a town itself suffering in poverty, suicide and mental health. But we hope that while the monies raised will help those abroad, the publicity raised will help those at home as well.
No pressure, but please help if you can.