When Cornelia was just 17 years old her mother died, leaving her to raise her younger siblings Simon and Hilma alone. The teenager struggled to earn enough money to support her family, and they often went to bed hungry. Unable to afford school fees, Cornelia was forced to take the children out of school.
Cornelia’s story is far from unique in her home-town of Ondangwa in northern Namibia, where poverty and low life-expectancy have left thousands of children without parental care or in female-headed households. Countrywide, more than 140,000 children have lost one or more of their parents and malnutrition is responsible for the deaths of at least 6,000 children a year.
Sitting in front of the corrugated iron shack where she and her family lives - known locally as a ‘kambushus’, Cornelia said:
“I don’t want to die young like my mother. I want to be able to care for my siblings.”
Our family strengthening team in Ondangwa has helped Cornelia grow her income, so she can give her brother and sister the childhood they deserve. We are also contributing towards the children’s school fees and providing nutritional support. With our help, the children were able to return to school and their health greatly improved.
For now, Cornelia makes a living selling roasted meat in the village. It generates enough money to keep the family stable, but Cornelia’s true ambition is to set up her own catering company. At the local SOS vocational training centre Cornelia is studying for a business management qualification so she can make her dreams a reality.
“My mother always encouraged me to run my own business,” Cornelia says. “I would love to start my own catering company and make her proud.”
Hilma has grown into an outgoing and bubbly teenager. She has just finished high school and like all teenagers at this stage of her life is fretting over her exam results – though she is predicted to do well. She is hoping to become a doctor and will soon be moving on to the next phase of her education.
Hilma shared with us the difference that the SOS family strengthening programme has made to their lives.
“Today we have enough to eat,” she explained.
“I used to sit in class thinking ‘Were it not for SOS, I would be hungry now and couldn’t concentrate’. If I want to become someone in the future, I have to study hard.”
“I want to become a doctor and help stop this hunger I see all around me.”
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