Each day of my life, I am fortunate enough to learn something new and interesting about myself and the people with whom I work tirelessly.
The Cassinga weekend was another exciting learning adventure, where I joined the UNAM MALTAS CLUB 2012 in collaboration with NatureFriend Safari's to distribute solar stoves to underprivileged people in Uis (near to the Brandberg Mountains).
Our aim was to reach and educate rural communities as to how the solar cooker works and why it is a viable option instead of cutting down trees. The communities were very appreciative and I learned that if you are passionate about something, the only thing that can stand between you and your own passion and desire is "death".
We should make each day count, because life is too short. Bearing this in mind this week we look at entrepreneurial opportunities and the lifestyle of the communities in the village of Arandis, which is situated 60 kilometers outside Swakopmund.
Get ready for your "Wow" moment!!!!!
A cold, daily breeze flows in from the Atlantic Ocean into the little corrugated-iron houses facing the Namib Desert from where the sandy winds sweep around the village under the blue clear sky.
The warm sun twinkles with temperatures ranging from twenty six to forty-two degrees Celsius and fall upon the small village of Arandis and the rural community is in full swing with its daily tasks.
The sounds of the community members talking, laughing, relaxing and exchanging ideas about business, livelihoods and life in general occur either at school, church or in the village council offices. The daily tasks of the young people in Arandis do not end after school; from miles away young men and women can be spotted with black traditional pots and firewood ready to provide a meal for themselves and fellow extended family members.
While the community members enjoy their meal, which might be the only meal for the day, they engage in a chat. Many of the families have daily tasks such as going to school, herding cattle, hunting, cleaning out their yards, taking care of the elderly, etc.
A mealtime is an opportunity for sharing ideas and is also a social gathering.
This highlights the lifestyle of the Arandis community, and the importance and the role and richness of culture in the day-to-day operations of the community.
At the outset it is difficult as a visitor to be certain of what to expect - but it was surprising to see that most of the "meal times" are hardly a "social nicety" (time for enjoyment) but rather a time when communities discuss ways to improve their livelihoods, or discuss activities that are essential for their survival.
One chilly afternoon the Pastor of the local church invited me to meet a group of young men and women around the village: school learners in and out of school and a self-employed barber (Mr R) who was delighted to learn that "someone is finally paying attention to entrepreneurship in Arandis".
Mr R does not come from a business oriented family, and it was interesting to note that he believes that being a "businessman comes naturally", however most people in the village have the notion that entrepreneurial skills can be learned. As I engaged with more young people in the village, I asked them, "What they want to be when they grow up?"
Three common responses prompted young people to engage in entrepreneurial activity in Arandis: Firstly, a minority of young men and women who are familiar with magazines, television or have extended family members with skills such as computer science, banking, marketing and medicine, choose careers along those lines to market those skills.
Secondly, more frequently, rural youth who find themselves in very difficult and unbearable living conditions need to find ways to support themselves, because of their family background. This category constitutes rural young people who are orphanage children and whose living conditions are unbearable.
Lastly, a group of young men and women, often from single parents or are cared for by grandparents who are pensioners, choose their career options with the hope of providing for the underprivileged communities in Arandis.
Most rural young people in the Arandis village, regardless of their career aspirations, emphasized the importance of having basic entrepreneurial skills that could enable them to obtain employment in the broader labour market.
However, they made it very clear that these skills can only be sharpened if the current education system in Namibia grooms them to become entrepreneurs. In addition, the cultural traditions and obligations towards extended family leave them so powerless that they at times do not even want to think about what they would like to do in future.
An illustrative example is a polite young woman in her twenties (20's) (Ms K). Ms K was in her cousin's old corrugated-iron house in one of the residential areas of Arandis. Due to her busy schedule of taking care of her cousins, our meeting with Ms K was rescheduled to the afternoon. When I met her in the afternoon, she changed into her Damara attire from her normal school uniform and was making the afternoon fire in the opening just next to their house. It was interesting to note that as our conversation started, young children passed by the house where the meeting was conducted.
Thereafter, I realised that she was selling ice sachets to pay her school fees. When I asked Ms K, "What you would like to be when you grow up?" I assumed that she would give a business related answer since she was selling ice sachets, however this was her response: "I am an orphanage child and I am struggling to face daily challenges. However, if I know how to do it, I would like to study nursing at UNAM.
I have never met anyone in the village who wants to become a nurse, yet so many people young and old are sick. I lost my parents at a very young age, and with encouragement I will make it. I do not just want to drop out of school Sir: It is tough."
Amazing things are happening in the village of Arandis and there is hope for this community and I can't wait to explore and share more with you in future.
I am certain that you all had a "Wow" moment and please join us next week as we educate you on the use of the solar cooker with my own UNAM students Eben Nengola (Namibian) and Brian Sibanda (Zimbabwean). What is entrepreneurial about saving energy?