By Frederick Philander
“We’re focusing on an exciting initiative, Project HOPE, to assist young people whose lives have been turned upside down by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”
So said the country director of USAID, Gary Newton, yesterday afternoon at the Oshana regional Council offices.
He awarded scholarships to orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) who are heads of households and caregivers in the region.
“We have the privilege to spend the afternoon with a group of children who – due to circumstances beyond their control – have been forced to become adults far too soon and have been forced to assume adult roles and responsibilities far too early.
“These young people are heads of households. A survey by Project HOPE found that some caregivers are orphans or vulnerable children themselves – children taking care of other children. Childhood was not meant to be like this,” he said emotionally.
Newton expressed his admiration for the courage, determination and sense of responsibility the recipients have for their brothers and sisters.
“You’ve earned – and you deserve – a helping hand. Thanks to Project HOPE, you’re being offered a helping hand. You’re not being offered a handout.
You’re not getting a blanket, a pair of shoes, a food pack, or a sweater.
“You’re getting a gift that keeps on giving. You’re getting the kind of help that will permanently strengthen your capacity to take care of your family,” the USAID director said.
The scholarships were made available for the children to attend vocational and commercial training programmes and will pay for tuition, accommodation and a monthly allowance.
“Once you complete your training programmes, you will have the skills necessary to start small businesses with small loans from Project HOPE. Your own business will allow you to earn some of the financial resources you need to continue to be a caregiver for your family.
“Of course it’s not going to be easy. But judging from the courageous way you’ve coped thus far with the challenge you’ve been given, we are confident you will make it. You will succeed,” he said encouragingly.
Project HOPE is one of America’s best known and most well-respected humanitarian and development organizations.
“Since 1958, they have been providing health training and services to people around the world. As a USAID officer, I first worked with Project HOPE in 1988 in Malawi, and I can tell you they’re a good and capable organization.
“Led by Nelson Prada, Project HOPE has a strong team here in Namibia, and they’re doing good work helping children in need by providing micro-credit and educational opportunities to caregivers, health education to communities and care and support to OVC,” he said.