Born in Windhoek 24 years ago and raised in the beautiful town of Otjiwarongo, youth leader Josephat Vijanda Tjiho says going through all the suffering and pain of losing his loved ones early taught him to be responsible, humble, understanding and accepting of what life has to offer.
This also helped him to become a great youth leader. He is currently the vice-chairperson and co-founder of ChiNamibia Arts Education for Development, and serves on the advisory board of a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Wilderness Therapy Namibia, which helps learners and school dropouts with counseling and mentorship.
“I also write scripts, teach arts classes and write different youth books, as well as running different programmes in Babylon informal settlement,” Tjiho says.
He is also director of the play, Ring of the African Queen, launched at the Maxuilili Centre in the Babylon informal settlement in Katutura in July. For the play, Tjiho trained up to 30 youth to act.
He reminisces about the beauty of his life as a one-year-old, living with his grandmother in Otjiwarongo. Life, however, turned upside down when he moved back to Windhoek at the age of eight years to start his primary education at the Bethold Himumuine Primary School in Katutura, living with his mom and his five siblings. “That time life was hectic, as we used to live in my mom’s friend’s garage.”
“My mom had to work two jobs (domestic cleaner and a cook in a restaurant) with a mere salary of N$350 as a domestic and N$700 from the restaurant. She used her money to feed us, buy clothes etc. and also bought an Erf in Goreangab and started to build a three bedroom house month by month and brick by brick,” he says.
At Goreangab they had to live in a shack at first until the house was completed. “At this tender age I had to learn about life and situations in life. My late sibling was disabled. She could not speak, nor walk, and since my mom worked two jobs, most of the time I had to come home and feed her, as well as be with her after school. I never had many friends in my childhood and mostly had to stay indoors taking care of my sister after school,” he says.
In 2002 he lost his father and his sister passed away in 2008. This affected his schooling. In 2009 Tjiho went to improve his Grade 12 results at the Institute of Open Learning (IOL). Even after improving his Grade 12 results in 2011, he couldn’t get any financial assistance to further his studies at the university, hence he applied to the College of the Arts (COTA) to study Performing Arts and soon fell in love with the arts.
In 2012 he met Kapenangutjiua Vetira and together they decided to form the youth organisation, ChiNamibia, which caters for children as young as five years. “We started brainstorming and organising our new project and on March 15, 2013, ChiNamibia was born and launched.
“All went well at the beginning of 2013 and it was my final year at COTA. At the end of 2013, my world crashed again when I lost my mother in a horrific car accident. This was really the last thing I expected to happen to me, especially after losing my father and sister.
“It was a painful situation and very hard to get over, especially in my last year of college,” says Tjiho, adding that as time passed by, he learned to be strong and accept the situation. After burying his mother, he went back to school and completed his studies.
“I would say my life was not an easy one, however I do believe that there are also people out there who have suffered more than I have. I am now someone in life and I am inspiring other youths,” Tjiho says proudly.