AT the age of 21, Paralegal student Helena Kandjumbwa devotes a lot of time to community projects which arguably goes beyond volunteering, running development projects in informal areas by identifying dilapidated educational facilities and renovating them in order to provide adequate and conducive study environments for the needy. Having volunteered as a bridging school teacher and conducting training for the Annual Model United Nations Programme, Kandjumbwa constantly pushes for activities that promote social good and is currently working on rebuilding a school in the informal settlement of Havana, Katutura. The school, United Hope Dynamic for Development Preparatory School founded in 2013, was built with scrap materials and operates as both a day care and kindergarten catering for 38 children aged between four to eight years old.
In an interview with Confidente recently, Helena talks about her community projects and the importance of giving to the less fortunate.
Give us a snapshot of who you are?
My personality encompasses a little bit of everything. Predominantly, I’m cheerful and in good spirits. I however also tend to be very shy and reserved. I am 21 years old and the youngest of three sisters. I study Paralegal Studies at the University of Namibia.
Briefly tell us about your upbringing?
The way I was brought up has significantly molded my character and overall disposition. It is because of this upbringing and the principles it has instilled within me I always hold anyone I come across in high regard. Respect for people is a truly beautiful quality to possess. There’s nothing like it.
Briefly tell us about the community development projects, how did that come about?
It was around August of 2012 when I got involved, I was 17 at the time. Initially, the plan was to volunteer under any organisation I could get into and find a rhythm around it, but after several attempts to get in anywhere proved unsuccessful, I had to figure something else out. I looked up independent community establishments on the internet, contacted a few via email and decided to work with whoever gets back to me first which was easy because I received just one response.
I started volunteering for the time at Hope Initiatives Southern Africa (HISA) a community based organisation founded in 2004 to assist poor communities living in the informal settlements of the Tobias Hainyeko constituency that has a population of upwards 45 000 people, a third of which constitutes children and youth.
Tell us about some of the work you have done?
I volunteered as a Bridging School teacher; that is where overage children who’ve never been to school before or otherwise have been but because of various circumstances were forced to drop out, are brought to the centre and taught for one year. Towards the end of each year their progress and performance is evaluated in order to determine which grade they are allegeable for, prior to sending them off to mainstream primary school where they will then complete their primary phase education. In addition to teaching, I conducted a monthly donation programme, whereby I collected clothing, blankets, books and food for the children and staff.
In addition to community work, I facilitate and conduct training for the Annual Model United Nations Programme, which is an extracurricular educational activity in which high school students typically simulate delegates to the United Nat ions a n d simulate U N committees to deliberate upon world issues pressing on the international agenda so as to find amicable solutions to them and essentially expose and maximise the potential leader within each student.
How have these projects changed you as a person and the communities that benefited?
I’ve learned several golden lessons; suffice to say that I’m still learning. It never stops. This line of work has introduced me to a new way of thinking. It has broken me down, worn me out, gotten me tired, but that’s normal. I’ve learned that you have to have some other degree of emotional maturity and internal strength to see the work through to completion. No one ever said it would be easy, but no one ever said it would be impossible either, and that’s my loophole. I constantly ask myself why I didn’t start sooner, but hey, God’s time is the best time.
Looking back, what memories are you most fond of?
Back in 2014 when I volunteered as a full time teacher, I’d walk to the centre from the taxi rank and bump into some of the children I had taught before. I’d ask them h o w ever ything is going and they’d say, “We are now in Grade 5 teacher”. T he s e are 9 a n d 1 0 year olds who could not distinguish between colours, let alone write their names or understand basic English, as it was the medium of instruction. It always overwhelms me with joy seeing how far they’ve come and how far they’ll still go. These memories are most valuable to me and they serve as the primal justification for my consistency.
What are you currently concentrating your energy on?
At present, I ‘m working towards having a preparatory school in Havana that is already in existence rebuilt, seeing that it’s structural composition is that of a substandard nature, dilapidated and not conducive for the general cognition of the child. Reception to this project has been exceedingly overwhelming.
Given thousands of needy in society, would you say Namibians are giving to help ease the lives of others?
Well, not necessarily. Thing is, we are okay thinking that it is someone else’s problem, someone else’s burden to bear. That pattern of thinking is toxic and is the ultimate root of a number of social ills prevalent today. We cannot forever leave it to the foreigners, as has been the norm. It creates a deadly cycle of dependency, complacency and comfort, slowly diminishing any prospect of our people taking initiative to help themselves and bring about self-reliance. We are quick to chant “One Namibia, One Nation”, our actions are however not in correspondence with our words. These are our people, our children, they are not going anywhere. It is up to us who have it within our distinctive capacities to assist in reducing the mounting pressure off from the Government and take affirmative action, because essentially, everyone is the Government. It should be everybody’s responsibility to make this country great.
What advice do you have for the youth on becoming hardworking, educated and caring individuals?
There’s no such thing as impossible. It’s a delusion, an idea that has pegged itself onto our subconscious. Seek to bring to fruition that which you envision. Keep in mind that you are not entitled, no one owes you anything. I cannot stress this enough. We are not growing any younger. You should grasp the concept of taking responsibility and not waiting for certain things to be done by somebody else because it is apparently not your job to do. That thought pattern is deadly.
There is nothing that is as powerful as a resourceful youth. Familiarise yourselves with the country’s national goals (Harambee Prosperity Plan) and get to work. We will only have ourselves to thank in years to come.
Last but most importantly, do not forget the Almighty. Do not feel as though you have to rescind recognition, embrace it, you’ve worked hard for it, just always be mindful to give the glory to God, as he has made it possible. The Almighty will use you, regardless of your merit or the lack thereof.
What don’t people know about you?
I tend to notice people who do not actively seek to be noticed, it’s interesting.
Just what do you do for a little fun?
My kind of fun is being around a mentally stimulating group of people and just appreciating good company. I actively create an atmosphere of fun which tends to rub off on those sharing in the company. I do not shy away from indulging in an occasional night out nonetheless.
For assistance with the school rebuilding project contact Helena on helenawest9@gmail. com or on +264814422402
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