The Namibian (Windhoek)

12 April 2013

Namibia: A Simple Wish Of A Simple Boy

WILLEM /Uirab has a dream - to become a successful businessman.

He wants to prove that "disability is not an inability".

/Uirab (26) has been able to eke out a living on the streets for more than 10 years selling sweets, airtime, cookies and lose cigarettes. He remembers how he used to beg for money until it dawned on him that there was another way to make a living.

When The Namibian approached /Uirab outside a shopping centre in the central Windhoek this week, communication was a problem as he only speaks Damara/Nama. However, three of his friends assisted with the interpretation.

One of the three Lydia Harases said: "We stay in the same neighbourhood. He is a good boy we always meet here during lunch if we can and just talk to him about anything and everything. He tells us who and what he saw during the day."

/Uirab said although he is physically and mentally challenged, he has refused to survive on his welfare money only.

"When I was young I used to come to town and ask people for money. Some would feel sorry for me and give me a few coins but others would treat me very badly. I come from a big family. I have seven brothers and sisters and they have children so whenever I begged for money, and my grandmother was not there, they would take the money from me. In most cases I would be left with very little," he said.

He said he used to get between N$50 and N$100 from begging until he decided to become a businessman. He was inspired by seeing men who dress well and looked professional and wanted to do something for himself.

At the age of 16 /Uirab started selling sweets, and it has been at it for 10 years now, introducing new items as he went along.

Although some of the street children occasionally rob him of his daily takings, he refuses to give up and comes back to his "stall" the following day. "They wait until it is time for me to go home. They then push me around and steal my money. Because passersby don't understand what I say in most cases, they don't help me. They perhaps think the streetkids would be playing with me, when in fact they would be robbing me" he said.

/Uirab comes to his spot every morning at 06h00 and will be there until 17h00.

"It feels good. It's like I'm coming to work. I have an ATM card and a cellphone. My grandmother helps me a lot with my money and helps me save some of it. I also buy food at home to help my mother and siblings," he said.

/Uirab says one of the saddest days in his life was when the police raided illegal street vendors along Independence Avenue and one the women who was fleeing from the police fell on him.

He says he lost consciousness in the collision with the woman and nearly had an epileptic attack. "That was a bad day."

When business does well he makes between N$200 and N$300 from his sweets and cookies a day.

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