Thursday, November 20, 2014

Internship Celebration Party

This semester we  had seven students participate in internships around Windhoek. Students, staff, and internship supervisors all came together this afternoon to celebrate the time and commitment that our students have put fourth this semester. By signing up to complete an internship, students are agreeing to 112 hours at their placement in addition to a two-hour weekly class. By spending 112 hours at their internship, students get a chance to take their learning outside of the classroom and gain a more comprehensive understanding about the realities in Namibia. Students get hands-on experience working for causes they are passionate about and are given the opportunity to meet other like-minded individuals through their organizations.

As everyone was sitting around the living room, each student stood up and stated what organization they have been working with and what tasks had been their primary focus. While tasks varied for each student, one thing that was consistent throughout each presentation was the gratitude that each student expressed for the opportunity to learn from such dedicated organizations. 

This semester, we had students at women's rights centers, youth empowerment and education programs, and a legal assistance center. While some of our students were teaching classes and leading youth groups, others were preparing documents for upcoming trials. No matter what the tasks were, each student felt as though they were able to positively contribute to their organization. 

Congratulations to our students for completing a successful internship at their organization!

To learn more about CGE's internship program, visit: http://www.augsburg.edu/global/semester/internships/

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Stop Forced Sterilization

Monday was a big day for women's health and reproductive rights in Namibia. The Supreme Court issued their judgement on the Government of the Republic of Namibia vs. LM and Others, an appeal that had come from the government in response to the High Court's ruling that three HIV-positive women had been involuntarily sterilized. In short, the Supreme Court dismissed a government appeal to not be held accountable for paying damages for the involuntary sterilization of three women at the Oshakati and Katatura State hospitals. The case will be returned to the High Courts where compensation for the three women will be determined.


This case has been going on since 2008 and has been a long battle. In 2007, there were found to be over 40 cases of women being sterilized without their informed consent in government hospitals and clinics. 

I, Chelsea, the international resident assistant, have been working with Namibian Women's Health Network (NWHN), a community-based organization founded to empower those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS in Namibia. Monday morning, I quickly headed to the office in order to meet up with the rest of the NWHN staff to head to Zoo Park. At the park, all of the supporters gathered together to walk to the Supreme Court as a united front. I can honestly say it was such a privilege to be surrounded by such powerful and strong women (and a few men) and to know that I was about to witness something incredibly amazing. Upon arriving at the Court, we were directed to the court room where the ruling would be announced. There was a buzz of excitement and trepidation in the air as we were all waiting for the result. One by one the judges walked in and we all stood up knowing that we were just moments away from a monumental decision. Upon hearing that the appeal had been dismissed, there was an air of relief and celebration that immediately took over the crowd. As we all headed outside, dancing and singing took over as a long journey finally came to a close. I was so honored to get to be a part of such an occasion. It was truly a moving moment when justice was finally achieved. While the issue of forced sterilization is far from over, it was truly a giant step forward for women living with HIV/AIDS not only in Namibia, but around the world. This court case is expected to have far reaching effects considering that Namibia is the first country to successfully take the government to court and get a favorable ruling in regards to ending the practice of coercive sterilization. 

Reconnect Retreat

This afternoon, CGE staff and students gathered into the van to head off on our mid-semester reconnect retreat. The goal for the retreat was to provide an opportunity for staff and students to come together and prepare for the next few weeks in Windhoek and Cape Town. Since the students just got back from their break, this was a good opportunity for everyone to check in and brainstorm how we, as a community, want the last four weeks of our semester to look.

The afternoon started with a welcome from our program director, Romanus. He outlined the importance of a supportive community and reminded both the staff and students that these next four weeks are an opportunity for us to continue to grow and get to know one another.

Chelsea, our international resident assistant, then led the group in a team building exercise where the group was split into pairs. One partner would have a blind fold on while the other partner had to lead them through an obstacle course using only their voices. The purpose of this activity was to remind staff and students that we need to work together and use open communication in order to form a supportive community.


Frederick and Freddy working together to arrive at their destination. 

Sarah and Margaret 



After a quick safety activity, both staff and students took some time to reflect on where they started the semester and what they still wanted to do in the upcoming months. Students reflected on why they applied for this program, the emotions they  felt right before leaving, as well as their expectations. Students were then challenged to explain how they wanted to spend the next four weeks of the program and what they wanted to take away from this experience.



Finally the afternoon wrapped up with a final team building activity where the entire group was blind folded and had to create various shapes using string. The purpose of this activity was that, unlike our first activity where you only had to communicate with one person, you now had to communicate with fifteen other people in order to achieve the task.

The afternoon was a great success and both staff and students are ready to work together to make these last four weeks the best yet!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Halloween at CGE

Every week, student leaders take turns hosting community events. The goal of these events are to bring our living and learning community together and take time to reconnect and continue our journey of getting to know one another. This week for our community event, our student leaders decided to throw a Halloween party for all of the students. Activities included personal trivia where the students would answer trivia questions about members in the group. If answered correctly, that student would get a piece of candy! This was a great activity to show that we still have a lot to learn about one another despite having lived together for over two months now! 



Other activities included a doughnut eating contest and a candy toss game. After having the previous week off for fall break, this was the perfect activity to reunite the group and get everyone ready for the next four weeks in Windhoek! By the end of the event, everyone left with a candy bag and a positive attitude to start the week. While this may have been a slightly different celebration than what the students typically do back in the States, it was the perfect taste of home. 





Happy Halloween from our Fall 2014 students in Namibia! 


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Permaculture at CGE Namibia!

I recently voluntarily added a new item to my list of responsibilities.  When I was in the US this summer, I attended a Permaculture Design Course.  I was so inspired by the principles of permaculture, which aim to leave the world a better place than we found it, that I have started experimenting with permaculture at the CGE Namibia site.  I'm starting out small, trying to see what works in this urban desert environment.  Step by step, I plan to add more and more permaculture design features to our landscape.  So far, we have planted tomatoes, lettuce, passion fruit, lemon verbena, pomegranate, fig, mint, lemon grass and rosemary.  These are all surrounded by a mulch of locally available leaves, grass clippings, flower petals, etc (basically anything I could find).  The mulch helps to keep out unplanned plants, keeps water in the soil, keeps the soil cool and helps to fertilize the soil.

The pot standing on top of a white tube in the middle is our worm tower!  We throw our kitchen food scraps into the tower, where the worms eagerly devour it and spread the nutrients into the soil through holes in the tube which they can crawl in and out of. The pot is on top to keep out flies and other non-worm species. We also need to keep the worms moist so we pour some water into the tower regularly.  This also helps to keep water in the soil.  The worms also aerate and soften the soil as they crawl around and fertilize it.

Future plans include adding more worm towers (we produce a lot of food waste and the worms don't travel that far away from the tower, so we could certainly use more), using grey water from the laundry (when people use natural cleaning products) to water the plants, adding more plants, continuing to learn and add what works well to keep our little plot in harmony with nature's processes, absorbing greenhouse gases, processing our waste naturally, and producing usable resources (food!).

While I really don't have a lot of "free time" to spend in the garden during a work day, a 10 minute break now and again makes a big difference on our little garden, and makes a HUGE difference in my productivity level in the office the rest of the day.  I'll be sure to keep you updated as our dabbles in the world of permaculture expand and evolve over time!

-Linda

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Team Building

This afternoon, the staff and students spent a lovely day learning more about each other and preparing for the semester ahead. The day consisted of cycling through various activities that explored what identity consists of and the factors have influenced the creation of our identities. Areas such as race, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, and gender were explored in more detail with both staff and students sharing personal experiences and beliefs about each topic. The group also participated in numerous team building activities to get to know each other.

The day ended with everyone splitting into four groups for a hastag competition. Each group had to come up with a word or a short phrase represent our identity as the Fall 2014 group. The winning hashtag was #cgebabiesoflove. The group stated that the semester is a journey and that their journey is just beginning. They are babies now, but as the semester progresses they will graduate to #cgetoddlersoflove and so fourth.


At the end of the day, the group was ready to head back to the house and everyone felt as though the day was a success and they were grateful that our community got the opportunity to learn more about one another.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Students Have Arrived

Our new students for Fall 2014 arrived in Windhoek, Namibia on Wednesday afternoon.

The students arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 17 August, and spent ten days learning about the history of South Africa and their struggle for liberation. The students got the opportunity to talk to various organizations and hear from many different viewpoints. One of the highlights that many of the students mentioned was the opportunity to meet many influential speakers and be able to engage with them in a small group setting.  

The students were shocked to learn about the vast inequality that exists in South Africa. Many found it hard to believe that one of the poorest townships was in the same municipality as Sandton, one of the wealthiest areas in Johannesburg. Many of the students mentioned that reading about these inequalities in a textbook could never do the reality justice and they were very grateful to get the opportunity to see these inequalities first hand. 


The students also got to meet with members of the African National Congress (ANC), the ruling party of South Africa, and the Democratic Alliance (DA), the official opposition. The students got to hear each parties platform and where they would like to see the future of South Africa. 

Another highlight for many of our students was their home stay in Soweto over the weekend. Soweto stands for South West Townships and is an area made up of 34 townships and is a suburb of Johannesburg. Our students were split up into pairs and were placed with one of five families throughout Soweto. Some of our students got to attend a soccer match, go to church with their families, or just hear about daily life in Soweto. The students were all very grateful to get to spend time with families in Soweto and to look at the similarities and differences between Soweto and their communities in the United States. 

After finishing their time in South Africa, the students took a quick flight up to Windhoek and spent their first day meeting all the staff and getting a tour of the house.