In October I had the chance to accompany Martha Gaingos, the social worker at ACC Namibia, during the admission process for Amitofo Care Centre. Parents or the persons responsible for a child can contact Martha and inform her that they want to have their child educated in the Care Centre. In a first step, all interested persons are collected in a list and clustered according to region. The applications are collected till the end of October.
In the following weeks, Martha and the director (or another observer) drive to the applicants to see the environment in which the child is educated. This measure shall help to identify the real vulnerable children with focus on orphans or half-orphans. Before the visit starts, it has to be clarified which language is spoken in the family as not everybody is able to speak Afrikaans or English. Martha speaks Damara. But apart from that, there are several additional languages and in case of need somebody has to join the trip in order to translate. Usually, one of the caregivers can serve as
translator as they are coming from different tribes.
The next challenge is to find the applicants. Some of them live in slums, which are sometimes illegal and not registered. Consequently, it is difficult and time consuming to find the respective shack. Before you find somebody you need to ask a lot of people, then finally we are sitting in front of a shack. The living environment of the children is sometimes really devastating, as well for non-orphans. It is absolutely normal that mothers are left behind by the father already during pregnancy, without financial support. The mothers do not have work, so that some of them are really struggling.
During the visit, ACC Namibia presented with all specialities and possibilities (e.g. the Chinese language lessons). The parents or guardians shall know who is taking care of the children. Of course questions from their side are welcome. Afterwards, Martha interviews the parents using a questionnaire, which refers among other things to the psychic and physical health of the children, their environment or as well how the guardians earn their living. In a last step, the children and their direct environment are photographed.
When all the home visits are done, a committee consisting of director, Martha and the other observers/translators decides which children will finally join ACC Namibia. 40 children will have the chance to join the school in 2018, but Martha already faces 100 applications. In December, all applicants will be informed of the decision of the committee.
It is a time consuming and intense process, requiring a lot of energy of all participants. But nobody complains, quite the contrary the necessity of the process it is emphasized.
Today my interview partner is Martha Gaingos, the social worker. She is 58 years old and Damara speaking Namibian.
Q: Martha, since when do you work for ACC Namibia?
A: I work for ACC Namibia since June 2016
Q: Which criteria do you apply during the home visits?
A: Our first focus is on orphans and half-orphans. So in case that a respective application is made, it is almost 100% sure that this application is accepted. But a lot of parents and guardians apply while the children are neither orphans nor half-orphans. In these cases the home visits help us to identify vulnerable children suffering from extreme poverty, where parents sometimes cannot afford the living of the child and do not have enough money for food or even water! Other children live in a surroundings which puts them in danger, e.g. when we have the impression of abuse. In these cases, we also accept the applications as far as possible.
Q: What are your tasks apart from the home visits and the selection process?
A: The well being of the children is my main task. I have to make sure for example that the children are safe in the Centre, and for example the nannies treat them well and that teachers do not beat them. I talk to all of them, asking for their observations. If they inform me of any child making an unhappy impression I will try to find out the reason and, consequently, as well a solution. I also talk to the children, they know that they can come to me with their complaints.
Q: What is the Namibian government doing to improve the situation of the children?
A: Not so much. We appreciate that Amitofo Care Centre received the approval and was able to become active. But apart from that, the situation for the children would be worse without the help of ACC Namibia and similar organization.