By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Ten girls from the Children of Zion Village in Katima Mulilo today leave for a month-and-a- half-long visit to the United States of America. The girls, all orphans from Katima Mulilo, are part of 50 kids that the children’s villages look after. Their visit to the USA will take them to churches that are into supporting children’s homes and feeding programmes to raise awareness of what great things can be achieved through support, according to Rebecca Mink, of the Village. Yesterday, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare handed over Certificates of Absence to the children – this in accordance with Section 61 of the Children’s Act which authorizes them to leave the borders of Namibia. While in the USA, the group will make presentations of songs and testimonies to the churches there. Two girls gave testimonies of their lives since their parents died. Although short, the testimony of Unonge Dorothy Mwila, who has been orphaned since the death of her parents in 2003, is a story of the suffering she endured due to the death of her parents, to which many orphans can relate. “For a year I barely survived. Life was tough. I had little to eat until I was taken in at the Children of Zion Village,” she said. Margaret Matengu, who is now 15, joined the village after staying with her grandmother after both her parents and her sister died. The village is four years old. Mwila hopes to become a Sunday-school teacher one day, while Matengu hopes to see her family again. Permanent Secretary Sirkka Ausiku said that although the government did not encourage places of safety and children’s homes, such institutions have become necessary due to many social and economic difficulties that parents and guardians experience in the face of growing numbers of orphans and the lack of capacity by extended families to care for such children. “As a ministry, we know there are many good-hearted people out there who are taking care of children who are not their own but who are in need of care,” Ausiku said. Although the ministry appreciated the efforts of such individuals, Ausiku called on people looking after more than six children in the way of an institution to contact her ministry and regional offices for them to get information on how to register the institutions. Registering would not only legalize the institutions, but would also pave the way for support such as the girls’ trip to the USA. The PS urged the girls to serve as ambassadors for their fellow children and the Namibian government in the USA, and to use the opportunity to show off the rich cultures and potential that Namibia has. The trip has been made possible by support of the Children of Zion USA which is the main sponsor, and many supporting churches.