Eveline de Klerk
SWAKOPMUND – A health assistant and counsellor employed by the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Louisa Kativa, has given new meaning to volunteerism at Swakopmund.
Kativa has granted at least five teenage mothers between the ages of 15 and 19 a second chance to education by taking care of their babies so that the young mothers can go back to school unhindered.
Kativa, who teamed up with another volunteer, Louisia Shinedima, has set up a day care centre in the DRC informal settlement where she takes care of at least five children, including two babies, since February this year, free of charge.
The duo is also monitoring the progress of the mothers at school and renders support where needed in order for them not to drop out of school.
New Era visited the centre on Tuesday afternoon in DRC, known for its grinding poverty and high unemployment and where water, sanitation and refuse removal remain a challenge.
When New Era arrived some of the children were sleeping while others were happily playing in the structure made out of board under the watchful eyes of Shinedima.
Kativa says she has realised through her years of counselling that teenage mothers suffer a lot in DRC and their children could get caught up in the same vicious cycle if the issue is not addressed.
“I have seen the suffering of many young girls. They become vulnerable and get exploited by elder man who expose them to HIV/Aids, teenage pregnancy and poverty,” she said.
The only thing that can help teenage mothers to become self-reliant is by their going back to school and getting a proper education, she says. However sometimes, she says, the support systems at home do not allow them to go back to school.
“Hence I saw a need to help them so that they can help their kids by going back to school and get an education. I am hoping to help at least 15 girls every year to go back to school.”
Kativa added that teenage mothers drop their kids everyday just before school and pick them up after school unless they have extramural activities.
Those who have the means to come to the centre during breaks do so to breastfeed their babies.
“The children are dropped off with food and especially vegetables and bread to eat while their parents attend school. However, we encourage breastfeeding as it eases the financial burden of the mother who often takes care of the baby alone,” she said.
Kativa does not get any assistance and does all the caring from the goodwill of her heart. Shinedima also does not get paid for her work. “But we have made it work so far and will continue, although help will highly be appreciated,” she says
Kativa says the centre currently needs chairs and tables as well as a gas refrigerator as they cannot store milk or perishables for the children.
“Having a fridge would make it easy especially to store milk for babies, so that the mothers do not go back and forth to breastfeed them. Hence I am asking Namibians to assist us in any way possible to help as many mothers as possible. They too deserve a second chance,” she said.
She also appealed to other community members anywhere in the country to assist teenage mothers. “If you can in anyway help at least one girl to go back to school, you will not only impact her life, but that of her family as well. Let us intervene while we have a chance before they end up on the streets,” she said.
To render assistance to the centre or to be assisted Kativa can be contacted at 081 3738872.