Christmas – Also a Time of Gloom

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK WHILE the Christmas season is supposed to bring joy, to some especially those who cannot afford to spoil their loved ones, the period brings gloom. Judging by the large numbers of people that visit the shops especially at weekends, many have started their Christmas shopping to cash in on the sales that different stores are offering on a variety of commodities, including gifts. Some houses are already awash with Christmas decorations to put them in a Christmas mood as the day draws closer. As people go about their busy schedule to make sure they don’t have anything missing on their Christmas lists, Christmas carols such as Silent Night, The First Noel, We Three Kings, Joy to the World, the Little Drummer Boy, play in the background. With only 16 days to go before Christmas, Uinisia Katewo, a single parent of four children says the festive season, especially this year, will not be that joyful. This period makes her feel bad because she cannot do things her parents used to do for her during the festive season. “If only I had money, I would buy new clothes for my four children. I would buy meat, sweets and make salads to celebrate Christmas with my children,” she said. “This is in contrast to what I used to get when I was small.” That time, Katewo’s father had a job and he could afford to buy clothes for all his children. “We had good food and we celebrated,” she reminisced, adding “I feel sad I cannot do it for my children.” These, however, remain wishes, because Katewo does not have a source of income. Although she sells sweets, the proceeds fall far short of her daily needs, such as food, milk for her baby and other groceries. She shares a backyard shack with her boyfriend, who most times is unemployed. “It is a tough life this one. No money, no friends,” she says. “If one is poor,” Katewo adds, “no one visits you. Why should they come to me if I have no money? I have many relatives here in Windhoek but only three or four visit me. Only when I am working will I see them because I will be having something.” Katewo is but one of the many people living in the informal settlements who live below the poverty line and thus cannot afford the luxuries that Christmas is associated with. When others are thinking of grilling turkey and baking Christmas teacakes and washing them down with drink, Katewo and her children would be lucky if this Christmas they even have porridge to eat on their table. “I will cook porridge for my children to eat,” she said, looking lovingly at her two children Helvi and Elliot. Expensive as it is, Windhoek offers little choices for this family, which has left Katewo looking into traveling to the north to celebrate the season with her grandmother. This will however depend on the availability of money. To get to their destination, Katewo and her daughter Helvi would need N$200 and an additional amount for their baggage. The north, she says, is better in terms of celebrating Christmas because people own goats which they can slaughter, unlike Windhoek, where one has to fork out money every time. Be that as it may, Katewo has not let a lack of money dampen her spirits. Realising the ravaging effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the ignorance within the community in which she lives, Katewo has taken up classes to become a Home Based Counsellor, which would enable her get some type of job. With four children under her care, she needs to be financially grounded to be able to send her three children to school. Helvi will be starting Grade 1 in January 2006, while two others in the north will be continuing with their Grade 8 and Grade 6. All she wants now, she adds, is a decent job, for her to take good care of her children.

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