Windhoek-Despite wrongdoings in the past due to his difficult upbringing, Samwel Kapepo is now regarded by many as a hero, a saviour and as someone generous, with a heart for young people.
Kapepo, who still lives in a shack in the Greenwell area of Katutura, says growing up without his parents’ love and losing most of his loved ones in his childhood was a pain that never healed, and caused him to end up living a notorious life and doing wrong things, such as beating people, stealing and all sorts of criminal activities.
“Being raised without bread and butter and no frying eggs, things were tough. I needed to make a living. That is why I ended up stealing almost anything, even underwear by hiding them in my mouth,” says Kapepo.
He adds that he also has first-hand experience of what growing up as an orphan means, because his parents passed away when he was still young. The saddest thing for him was losing her sister, who died from an HIV-Aids related illness some years ago.
Regardless, Kapepo continued going to school every day on an empty stomach, but he could not finish his education, as life was too tough. The good thing is he was very good in English, and before dropping out of school, he got a chance to go to Norway on an educational exchange programme hosted by their school at a time.
During his Grade 10 final examination, Kapepo did not do well and only attained 22 points – not enough for him to go to the next level.
“Even at this point I wanted to go improve my marks, but there was no support from anyone, and this is why I ended up living a thug’s life and stealing a lot to feed myself and my family,” he says.
After giving up on everything, Kapepo decided to move to Windhoek for greener pastures, but things also did not work out and he ended up trying Lüderitz.
“Moving to Lüderitz was another story, but my luck came when I heard of movie casting for the film titled The Trial by French people. When we went to audition, I made it and was selected as the main actor, and it is here my acting career started,” says Kapepo, adding that with the producers and directors, they started flying from town to town shooting the movie.
They were getting paid N$1,700 per week. After shooting the movie, Kapepo returned to Windhoek with his savings, and because of his lifestyle and bad background, he thought he owed a lot to the community.
He met up with his friend, Pedro Shikalepo, and with the little he earned from the movie they set up a programme to change things in Katutura. With the programme they started with ideas to help young people open a soup kitchen in Ombili, at first feeding up to 120 kids.
In 2008, his partner Shikalepo passed on. It was an emotional moment for him losing his best friend, brother and colleague. He had to start all over again from scratch to continue with the soup kitchen without the help of Pedro. He drafted a letter to other members of the community to find a way to collect money.
Since this did not work out, he had to find a job at The Warehouse. With the experience he got from acting, he got a job as stage manager. While working there the idea occurred to him of hosting a fundraising event for the soup kitchen.
With the help of Namibian artists Tunakie, Omzoo, late Jackson Kaujeua, Exit & Mushe, and Equipped Dancing Academy, they collected up N$6,700 which came in handy for the children who use the soup kitchen.
Kapepo later received a donation of N$20,000 from Germany with which he bought a container, which they currently use as a storeroom after having used a toilet as a storeroom for a long time.
By 2010, the kitchen was well known for feeding kids and started winning awards, including the Jet Store Community Award worth N$25,000.
“This money, I did not use it for the kitchen, but divided it among all the volunteers. From that year, I was chosen as an ambassador of Oxfam International Youth Programme for three years. I travelled to India to share my story and how I initiated the soup kitchen,” says Kapepo.
He adds that he has travelled to countries, such as Germany, South Africa and Holland, were he made connections to support the soup kitchen.
“In Germany, I met a youth group, known as Cafehuis, and we set up an agreement for the youth exchange programme that benefited more than ten Namibians, who travelled to different countries with the programme.”
From there, things started to get better and the kitchen became bigger. Last weekend, Kapepo was also awarded with the Simply You Magazine Diamond Award, awarded to a person who has done something extraordinary in and for their community.