26 August 2009 A helping hand for Namibias youth After four years, ORTs training and life skills project in Namibia is coming to an end having helped thousands of vulnerable young people and their dependents. But there is a tinge of regret to the conclusion of the Skills, Opportunities, Self-reliance project (SOS Namibia), which USAID funded to the tune of $2.5 million. One always likes these things to continue, said Dr Lucy Steinitz, a Trustee of ORT Namibia, which assisted the project under the management of ORT South Africa and with oversight by the ORT International Cooperation office in Geneva. Theres a sense of satisfaction of a job well done thanks to the able leadership of (project director) Eva Weitz and the back-up team in South Africa. At the same time we would welcome another opportunity to work with such an excellent team and continue to make a positive difference in the lives of these children. Unfortunately, we lack follow-up funding even though the need lives on. ORT’s SOS Namibia programme has provided a solid foundation on which thousands can build a better future. More than 12,000 vulnerable young people, unemployed youth and care givers have directly benefited from the project and the extra income they have been able to earn thanks to their training has in turn helped many thousands more who are dependent on them. A fifth of Namibias adult population lives with HIV/AIDS and more than one-third of the countrys children end up being orphaned or otherwise vulnerable by the time they are in their mid-teens. The chances of a child becoming vulnerable increases as it gets older, Dr Steinitz said. There are more than 155,000 orphans in a national population of only two million. Three-quarters of them lost their parents to AIDS. So theres a lot of work to be done. However, the achievements of ORT SOS Namibia will continue to be felt even if the project itself has come to the end of its term. The project had been a huge success, said ORT South Africa National Director Michael Sieff, not only in terms of the large number of people helped but by the structural improvements made to local organisations which continue to deliver services to young people in need. By partnering with these local organisations, ORT has helped them become more efficient and so build their capacity. In Rehoboth, for example, ORT worked to better coordinate services in HIV prevention, care and support. Rehoboth is a town of about 50,000 people, a very diverse population, and there were lots of small grass roots projects which were tripping over each other, Dr Steinitz said. Now theres a coordinated calendar and local leadership has shown more initiative. Through SOS Namibia, ORT also provided funds and technical assistance to Kayec, in the capital Windhoek, and Cosdec, in Otjiwarongo, organisations providing training, vocational education and life skills development. The training focuses on construction, metalwork, carpentry/joinery, computing course and needlework skills as well as key life skills needed for employment such as problem solving, self presentation, CV writing and interview skills. And an educational enrichment programme, the International Youth Award (IYA) Programme is offered to young people both in and out of school. The IYA is a voluntary, non-competitive programme of practical, cultural and adventurous activities designed to support the personal and social development of the 14-25-year age group, regardless of background, gender or ability. Lorna Munekamba,19, is just one of thousands of young people who can face the future with confidence thanks to ORT SOS Namibia. She entered Kayecs IYA programme when she was 14 and is now in a country where so many children do not have the support to enable them to complete secondary education studying towards a degree in Accounting and Finance. When I look back at the person that I was before and compare it to the person I have become, it fills me with joy and thanksgiving to God, Lorna said. The programme changed me from a shy and quiet person to a confident and outspoken one. I gained a higher self-esteem. And they assisted me academically by providing volunteers to teach subjects where I struggled. By teaching computers and providing Internet access they helped me with application to different educational institutions and companies that were offering bursaries until I succeeded to get one from Telecom of Namibia. Their motivation, encouragement and support helped me to be where I am now. I know that my achievement will not stop here because as long as I live nothing can stop me from succeeding.