Many children and youth in Namibia have parents and their families to nurture and protect them.  But, when a child is vulnerable or orphaned, they often experience a far more challenging and debilitating life.

That is why we are thrilled to announce that we’ve received funding from the Embassy of Finland to foster the protection of orphaned and vulnerable children in the Moses Garoeb constituency and informal settlements. Ambassador of Finland, H.E. Anne Saloranta made the announcement on October 26 at the signing ceremony at her residency in Windhoek (below).

Our partnership is through the Finnish Fund for Local Cooperation (FLC).  It will help us to build capacity and generate awareness of child protection issues, and to strengthen access to justice and the safeguarding of these children.  We were granted a total of N$1,354,195 for the two year project and are beginning work immediately.  (Keep reading below for details of our plans.)

For those of you who are not aware, the Embassy of Finland is very active in funding projects that contribute to the betterment and advancement of society within Namibia.  They’ve been a long-time friend and champion of equality and human rights in Namibia, with the first Finnish citizens establishing schools and medical centers as far back as the late 1800s.  Yes, you read that correctly!  Their contributions and innovation have made a significant difference in many parts of the country, and we are honoured and grateful that they have chosen us as a partner. It’s worth your while to ‘like’ their Facebook page so you can follow all of the projects they are supporting and their extensive contribution to our country.  Embassy of Windhoek Facebook page

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Left to right: Director of Family of Hope Services, Abigail Bachop, and Ambassador of Finland, H.E. Anne Saloranta, shaking hands to conclude the signing of the two year FLC funding agreement.

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Left to right: Her Excellency, Anne Saloranta, Ambassador of Finland, reminiscing with Reino Ihemba, Vice Chairperson of Family of Hope Services. Reino was a student in the exemplary Namibian Finnish Elcin Nkurenkuru High School back in the 1990s. The last time he was in the Ambassador’s residence was in 1994 when he graduated from Elcin Nkurenkuru. During that same time-frame in the 1990s Her Excellency, Anne Saloranta, was working in Namibia for Unicef where, as a social scientist, she was responsible for health programs.

So what are we going to do to contribute to the protection of children in Katutura?

Let me start off by saying that no matter how much good work Family of Hope Services does through our education, feeding and counseling programmes, we always face the hurdle of working with children who are continually hampered by the effects of severe poverty.  These effects often manifest in intense emotional stress caused by neglect, physical, sexual or emotional abuse, and the lack of compassion and caring in their homes and community environments where everyone is struggling.  As a result of this trauma, many children drop out of school and are unable to develop life or educational skills to pull themselves out of their situations.  Although we provide counseling for the vast majority of our children to help them develop resilience and to get them back into the school system, they still must return home to the environments where the abuse is taking place and they lack the support within the community.

Community Stakeholders Collaborating and Adopting a Child Protection Protocol

The first step in addressing the on-going trauma of these vulnerable children and youth, is to better safeguard them within the community. Namibia has made several legislative attempts to address Child Abuse and neglect, yet the plight of vulnerable children continues to be of growing concern to those involved in the area of child protection. Recent legal reform initiatives, such as the Child Care Protection Bill (2015) and even the Domestic Violence Act (2003) cannot operate on their own without putting efforts to clearly educate the community caregivers on protection issues and laws in place. This is one of our goals with the FLC Agreement. We will identify and map all stakeholders and all child service providers, then strengthen the referral network through focussed workshops with the stakeholders.  The overall end result we wish to achieve is to mobilize the community stakeholders, including schools, community police, and social services agencies in the Moses Garoeb constituency, to adopt a unified approach to protect children, and standard procedures to properly promote and support the safety and well-being of all children in the informal settlements.   We also want to support schools in adopting the protection policies in their working environment. Upon concluding the programme we will jointly agree and sign a child protection protocol that clearly denotes the actions and processes plus agency responsibilities to be taken to protect a child.

Teaching the Community to Recognize and Act on Abuse

The success of the programme will require building capacity and generating awareness of child protection issues not only with the stakeholders but throughout the community as a whole.

To reach and educate the community through our FLC partnership, we will train community facilitators to host more than 90 community town hall discussions with a goal to educate more than 2500 community caregivers about access to justice and safeguarding children.  We will also formalize policies on child care protection within our own organization and reach out to the caregivers of the children currently in our programs.   In the end we want people being able to identify abuse and to know what to do about it.  In the words of Ms. Celest Feris, Acting Deputy Director of the Child Welfare Division, Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, in her speech about child protection and her encouragement to the members of the audience regarding child abuse, we need to “SPOT IT and STOP IT!”

Abigail Bachopi, Director of Family of Hope Services; Marika Matengu, Programme Coordinator Embassy of Finland; and Reino Ihemba, Vice Chairperson, Family of Hope Services. Marika Matengu will oversee and monitor the partnership programme. Marika is a PhD student at the University of Oulu, Finland. Her doctoral thesis explores the quality of pre-primary education in marginalised communities in Namibia.

Left to right: Abigail Bachopi, Director of Family of Hope Services; Marika Matengu,Programme Coordinator, Embassy of Finland; and Reino Ihemba, Vice Chairperson, Family of Hope Services. Marika Matengu will oversee and monitor the partnership programme. In addition to her job with the Embassy of Finland, Marika is a PhD student at the University of Oulu, Finland. Her doctoral thesis explores the quality of pre-primary education in marginalised communities in Namibia.

Depictions of violence in the community as drawn by area leaders at a Family of Hope Services workshop to discuss abuse. There were mixed opinions on what constitutes abuse. Some participants believed that being bullied teaches a child to be stronger.

Foibe Silvanus, Community Development Officer with Family of Hope Services, facilitates a workshop on abuse.  The flip chart page shows depictions of violence in the community as drawn by area leaders at the workshop. There were mixed opinions on what constitutes abuse. Some participants believed that being bullied teaches a child to be stronger.

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