Windhoek -The once lifeless and sombre ‘Red Dunes’ location of Rehoboth as it is affectionately known in Block E has finally come to life, all owing to Standard Bank’s Buy-a-Brick initiative in collaboration with the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN).
Happy children skip along dusty red footpaths and neighbours trade the day’s news over warm cups of tea. In a few short months this community has transformed immensely, with most of its residents having previously lived in shacks or were forced to rent because they could not afford to buy houses.
In 2015, Standard Bank and SDFN launched its flagship Buy-a-Brick initiative in a bid to help alleviate the housing shortage for no or low income households. Funds were raised through the sale of token bricks in the form of erasers, and the funds are subsequently given to the federation whose members use it to build their houses. The recipients of these funds pay it back for the next members who will need it also to build their houses.
One such beneficiary of the project is 51-year-old Martha Engelbrecht who can finally proudly say she is a home owner. “When I joined the federation in February last year I started saving 10 cents and 50 cents and my children would always ask me what I was doing with so many coins. By August last year I was able to start building and I am very happy that I now have a house, I thank God,” she said.
An unemployed mother with eight children under her care, Engelbrecht said she was in dire need of a house so when she got the opportunity she started building slowly but surely, starting off with building a one-bedroom, and she has gradually been extending as she has a kitchen now.
“I was eager for a house and God saw my need. My prayers have been answered and I am really grateful,” she stressed.
Having seen the progress Engelbrecht made, her daughter Senorita Nawema said she was motivated also to join the federation so that she would be able to put a roof over her child’s head.
“I worked on my own house and built it myself. What is important is that you work by doing your best all the time. I also collected coins and saved as much as possible because a little bit really does help,” 28-year-old Nawema said.
Father of two Tony Titus agreed with Nawema, stressing that it is important that one commits oneself to do one’s best to build a house.
“We used to rent a house and it would cost N$3,000 per month which was just too much for me. I joined the federation in April and we started saving for an erf and we eventually got one. My wife, two daughters and I started making bricks every day until we were able to build our house,” he explained.
Titus added that he is happy that he no longer has to rent around Rehoboth and now sleeps happily and peacefully knowing he is in his own home.
Sharon Naris, the youngest beneficiary of the Buy-a-Brick initiative in the community, has been able to build a one-bedroom house she can call her own, a feat that most 23-year-olds cannot boast.
“Trying to save and build a house was very challenging, especially because I faced many financial constraints but I am glad that I made it because my mother is blind and I need to provide for us,” she said.
Naris urged all youth who find themselves without a roof over their heads to join the federation and start saving so that they can build their own home too.
While it may seem that only people in their youth are interested in these houses as they start a family, it is not the case. There are a significant number of elderly people who have never had the fortune of owning a brick house who have benefitted from the initiative.
The 64-year-old Elizabeth van Wyk, 60-year-old Gerhard van Wyk and 60-year-old Katrina Hanse were able to finally build brick houses for themselves, their children and grandchildren all thanks to the Standard Bank Buy-a-Brick initiative.
The Van Wyks lived on Groendraai farm but they did not have their own home so they moved to Rehoboth. It was there that they heard about the federation and joined the organisation.
Although it was difficult, the couple worked hard to save as much as they could so they would be able to build a house and did so with funds from the Buy-a-Brick initiative.
“We set up a shack first while we waited on starting to build – then began with our foundation and slowly built until our house was complete. We are thankful to God, as well as the federation and Standard Bank for making it possible for us to have a place we can call our own. We are at peace now,” Elizabeth noted.
Hanse said she saved the little she could, be it N$5 or N$10 until she had enough to buy an erf for herself. After that she became a beneficiary of the project which has changed her life.
“I am very proud to finally be a home owner and I look forward to be able to expand my house. I am very grateful that in my old age I have been able to put a roof over mine and my granddaughter’s head,” she added.
Heinrich Amushila of the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia said he was very happy because they were able to build 68 houses in Rehoboth for the first time, 44 of which were built under the Buy-a-Brick banner to the tune of N$1.4 million raised. The remaining houses were built with the aid of the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development.
He stressed that by building so many houses they also inadvertently helped people understand how the process actually works. He additionally thanks Standard Bank for its support and expressed his wish to help more people get their dream house going forward.