Voices for change: Dialogues on opportunities and perspectives with the youth in the Kalahari, by Claire Weemaes
Claire Weemaes, author of Voices for change: Dialogues on opportunities and perspectives with the youth in the Kalahari, had been involved in a local initiative to develop a community youth centre in Aranos, southern Namibia. The challenges she experienced in trying to improve the living conditions of young people there, and the general lack of knowledge on their perspectives on life, led her to conduct extensive research on the situation of the youth in the Kalahari.
When I first arrived in Aranos in south-eastern Namibia to do volunteer work, the American priest at the local Catholic mission drove me around to expose me to the poverty that was evident everywhere. His intention was to make me aware of this image of Africa. Sitting at the back of a pickup truck, feeling every bump in the potholed gravel road and clutching tightly to the railing, one soon sees what poverty is like. Images of small corrugated iron houses made out of waste materials pass by. Black children with dirty clothes play in the street, young mothers feed babies in the shade of tree, drunk men and women pour down homemade beer or pick a fight. Fields smoulder with burning waste and the smell of dirt and sewage numbs your senses. Yet many seem to smile and suffer at the same time. As I drive on the dirt roads in the informal settlements and look at everyone living there, shame rises up in me. It is impossible to simply move on through these sights: the desire to help is unquenchable. Many visitors who come from wealthy nations in the North will be confronted with this urge when they see the obvious poverty and inequality in such sharp contrast to their own lives. And if one spends not just a few days in Aranos but weeks, months, or even years, the contrast grows in intensity and range. If one has time to observe the local youth, it leaves one with many disturbing impressions, especially as regards health issues. The chance of a future for young people in the Kalahari Desert seems limited. You will see them neglected by their parents, fighting alcohol abuse, and trying to cope with teenage pregnancy. At the same time, you will feel a strange fascination with the joy and faith these beautiful people and their peaceful nature create within. However, any attempt to help the children in Aranos proves difficult. Apart from simply giving some money, which of course has no lasting effect at all, the obvious thing to do is to try to engage in local affairs. I got the chance to become involved when a local initiative to build a Community Youth Centre came up. Community leaders had formed a committee to provide for better education programmes and recreation facilities for the youth in their area. Thus, volunteers and donations hatl to be organised. Several steps were taken, but it remained unclear who would carry the responsibility for the initiative and take it forward. My euphoria began to fade. The participants coming to the meetings spent most of their time talking about their concerns and complaints regarding young people. The desire to build a better future for them was there, but the vision was unclear. At this point, questions suddenly started to arise that should have been asked long before the hastily founded project was launched: Why are the youth themselves not involved? Why did they never bother to become part of the initiative?
This is an excerpt from: Voices for change: Dialogues on opportunities and perspectives with the youth in the Kalahari, by Claire Weemaes.
Title: Voices for change
Subtitle: Dialogues on opportunities and perspectives with the youth in the Kalahari
Author: Claire Weemaes
Publisher: Klaus Hess Verlag/Publishers
Finanzierung: Lutz-E.-Adolf-Stiftung für Hochbegabte
Göttingen, Windhoek (Namibia) 2011
ISBN 9789991657356 / ISBN 978-99916-57-35-6 (Namibia)
ISBN 9783933117090 / ISBN 978-3-933117-09-0 (Germany)
Original softcover, 25 x 20 cm, 278 pages
Weemaes, Claire im Namibiana-Buchangebot
Voices for change is a social study with dialogues on opportunities and perspectives with the youth in Namibia's remote semi-desert, the Kalahari.