By: Limba Mupetami
WINDHOEK- Many have given up hope on the system. Others have given up hope on each other. Wilhelmina Shiikwa, 23 years of age, born and raised in Otamanzi, very small village in the Omusati Region, is living proof that despite hiccups, trials and growing tribulations, giving back to the needy should be a course everyone should live by.
An Education graduate from the University of Namibia (Unam), she is today the backbone of the Physically Active Youth of Namibia (PAY). PAY is registered non-governmental organisation that caters for after-school programmes that focus on the healthy development of young people in low-income communities in the centre of Katutura.
“PAY was started by a Dr. Donovan Zealand together with Marie-Jeanne Ndimbira in 2003. A pilot project to prove that academics combined with physical activity yields good results. Its main focus being on Grade 10 pass rates. That year they took in 34 Grade 10s from Jan Jonker who were labeled low performers and at risk of failing Grade 10. So, with the help of Unam students, the children would get tutoring every afternoon for two hours, then an hour of sports. At the end of the year the programme had a 90 percent pass rate, and that’s how PAY was born.
“In 2004, I became involved after hearing about it from my geography teacher who happened to have been a volunteer during his final year at UNAM. I never left since then. After finishing high school, I came back as a volunteer during my varsity years and in 2010, I became part of the staff as the Programming officer and later during the year I became the coordinator, a role I hold to date. So I can proudly say that I have been part of PAY on all levels; participant, volunteer, staff and coordinator.”
The programme has a regular attendance of 100 students, between Grade 7 and 12. It runs from two O’clock to five o’clock (14h00 to 17h00) Mondays – Fridays, and occasionally Saturdays. During these hours students are engaged in some of the following activities: Academic tutoring, Sports, Life Skills training (HIV AND AIDS education, leadership development and career choices), and community service.
“Like many youth programmes, we are not sponsored, but get a few donations from individuals. I hope for PAY to get a local funder to make it part of their social responsibilities so we can expand services to the youth outside Windhoek. And maybe get enough funds to afford a vehicle that can transport volunteers as they are our main resource towards actualizing our objectives.”