Place of Tragedy to Be Centre of Hope

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK The complex that until now used to be related to the brutal killing and rape of four-year-old Manuela Sofia Hoesemas is soon to be transformed into a vibrant multi-purpose centre. Situated along Independence Avenue, the old Katutura cinema complex building, which has been standing vacant for many years, is slowly but surely being renovated into a recreational place for both the young and old. What makes this transformation significant is that the centre would be dedicated to the memory of the late Manuela Sofia Hoesemas once it opens its doors to residents of Katutura, hopefully next year. It will be turned into a place a safety for orphans and vulnerable children, while at the same time will be a refuge for many needy people living in Katutura For the past few months, a welfare church organisation called Restoration Community Development Organisation (RECODEO) has been busy clearing up the place and renovating the old building. RECODEO is a community-based welfare organisation that was registered on May 19 last year. When the New Era news team arrived there recently, one could see some men busy cleaning up the place and fixing the dilapidated roof, ceilings and broken doors. Speaking to New Era at the site, chairperson of RECODEO, Sandi Tjaronda, said that the aim is to re-liven the complex into something that all Katutura residents can be proud of and as a place they can call their own. “Last year this place brought up a lot of emotional attachment because of what had tragically happened here. Furthermore, the place has been very much neglected and the damage to the building is too much. But we are planning to turn it into a multi-purpose community centre and place of safety for children,” explained Tjaronda as he walked past rows upon rows of old cinema chairs. A lot of work still needs to be done as the interior part of the building is in a rather poor state. Renovation is said to be progressing slowly due to a lack of funds and in view of this Tjaronda is appealing to both the private and public sectors to assist the church organisation in this regard. “We are very much committed and we want more hands to help us or become a partner with us,” he said. The idea to start something like this was already thought about way back in 2002 and after raising half a million dollars the welfare church organisation bought Erf 1191 from the Windhoek Municipality in July this year, after it had been placed on tender. The community-based multi-purpose centre is set to comprise of a crÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¨che, an after-school centre, a shelter for abused women and a soup kitchen for orphans and vulnerable children in the Katutura community. Tjaronda noted that women in abusive relationships will not only find a place of safety at the new multi-purpose centre, but will be given computer and business training for them to do something productive for themselves at the end of the day. “We want to help abused women and those in violent relationships. They can be trained and given kick-start support to do something. Most of them are constantly trapped in bad relationships and need to know how to run their own businesses and be economically stable by depending on themselves,” he said. Plans are also in place to introduce a New Start Centre for HIV/Aids Voluntary Counselling and Testing. “We want to establish a response mechanism where HIV-positive people and those affected by the virus can come here and talk to a counsellor or friend on how to cope with the disease and ARV medication,” he said. The centre, which is located just opposite the Katutura Old Age Home, will also be looking after the elderly and will assist them with donations of food and second-hand clothing. A mobile soup kitchen for school children, especially OVC, is on the cards from whereby visits will be made in delivering soup to hungry school children. Special attention will be placed in accommodating the hundreds of children that roam around the streets of Katutura, by providing them with recreational and educational material to keep them busy through the day. Orphans will thus be fed, clothed and assisted with their schoolwork at the new centre. “We will work with many volunteers from the community itself in order to build a spirit of volunteerism especially amongst the youth. We need to create a spirit of doing something valuable for your community,” lamented Tjaronda, but adding that the key is to demarcate the building complex into different segments for the various activities. Meanwhile, when New Era visited the home of the Hoesemas family, situated right next to the old cinema building, about the latest development they were pleased. “It was and still is a painful thing for us to have lost little Sofia in such a terrible way, but with God’s healing we are pleased that this new centre, which will be led by a church organisation, will bring further healing,” said Maria Hoesemas softly, the mother to the late Sofia. Sitting next to her, close relative Maria Kharuxas added that the transformation of the building would be a blessing in disguise, as it will be named in memory of the little girl who brutally lost her life. What was rather touching was that when the girl passed away in February last year, the grandmother who looked after her, Katrina Hoesemas, passed on in November the same year. Meanwhile, as renovations get under way more funds are needed to turn the old cinema building into a cherishable multi-purpose community centre, situated strategically in the middle of Katutura. At least, this will be some kind of consolation for the many who remember the tragic death of little girl Sofia.