80-year-old’s life of poverty and hardship

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Windhoek

They say gratitude unlocks the fullness of life and turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home and a stranger into a friend.

This is the story of 80-year-old Adelheid Aludhilu, who lives in the heart of Otamanzi constituency of Omusati Region.

Living in Okalondo village in Otamanzi, which is home to over 1300 San people, Adelheid struggles along with others for basic necessities such as food and shelter.

But entering her house, one is greeted by a glowing sense of gratitude. A smile on her wrinkled face shows that she is open to strangers. It does not matter what they have come for – all that matters is that she needs to share her story.
She has a story to tell, and perhaps a request to make. She is thankful to be alive and for the government’s drought relief food programme and most of all, President Hage Geingob’s wise decision to increase the old age pension.
She is now able to feed her 10 family members that include her children and grandchildren, as well as to take care of her brother’s family that lives in her neighborhood.

She said the old age pension increase from N$600 to N$1000 per month is a great stride in the lives of the elderly and their families.

“Tell him (president) I want to see him. I want to tell him how grateful I am. Tell him to come to this nearby school and I will walk and meet him there. I want to shake his hand and sing him songs of praise for understanding the plight of the aged,” she said with a glowing smile as if the president was already on his way.
“We are poor, but we are alive. If it were not for the government of the day, many of us would have died long back,” she said.

At her age she has gone through a lot of struggles and has seen a lot more than many people have. She is San, a woman and marginalized by life’s circumstances.

“Life has never been easy. Many of us have lived a life of hand-to-mouth and moved from one place to another, which is not easy,” she narrated.

With the family of 10 in a home that comprises only one thatched hut, her daily activities involve looking after her grandchildren and collecting firewood together with sticks to upgrade her homestead, where she has been living only for a year since she moved from another village.

Many of her grandchildren are still young and have not yet reached the age to go to school.
Like many of her fellow San, poverty and hardship have become a part of her life. The thatched hut is used as a bedroom, a storeroom and as a kitchen during the rainy season. The house is half built with sticks, and half of it is open. But she has hope, she has faith that one day things will be well.

She said if there was sufficient rain then they would be able to produce food from their mahangu field. But the drought is getting worse.

Adelheid narrates how times have changed and that young people no longer do household chores and cook for their elders.

“They leave all the responsibilities to us including taking care of their own children, while they just roam around and spend most of their time at shebeens.” She said even children who have been lucky to secure jobs in government are not interested in helping their parents.

“When you are old, even your own children will neglect you. It is sad and painful, but what can we do? They live their own lives,” she said as her face changes to contain and swallow the pain of thinking about her own situation.
She wants the government to assist with blankets, mattresses and storage for grain as these things can be expensive and she cannot afford them as her pension is used to buy food for her big family.

The head of state in April increased the old age pension from N$600 to N$1000 which was welcomed with open arms by the elders.

The pension increment is one of the initiatives that government introduced to help alleviate poverty.
The pension grant is provided under the National Pension Act (Act 10 of 1992).

• Monika Shifotoka is employed as an information officer in the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.

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