This is my first trip to Namibia and I am not sure what to expect. Africa is a country of contrasts—some of the friendliest people in the world, beautiful scenery, vast wealth, and vast poverty. They live behind walls with barbed wire running across the top. It creates a bit of fear in the foreigner who is traveling here. Yet, the people are smiling, they are happy to talk, they are helpful. In a meeting, or a church service, they welcome you into their lives with open arms.
After more than 24 hours of flying or waiting in airports I arrived in Windhoek. I was taken immediately from the airport to the United Nations House to present a lecture on “Gender-based Violence Against Women and Children” for an initiative that is being organized by the First Lady of Namibia. The room is filled with leaders from different Non-Governmental Organizations or NGOs. They are eager to learn how to help their country. In fact, during our introduction to the group we are told, “These leaders are Namibians who are working to make a better Namibia.” They are not waiting for help from others, they are stepping up and doing the hard work to break the cycles and chains of poverty.
I was overwhelmed by their passion. I was overwhelmed by their belief that they could bring change to this highly underpopulated country on the southwest coast of Africa, formerly a part of South Africa, having won their freedom only in 1990. They believe like we should believe. They are working to bring a better Namibia like we should be working to bring a better US or whatever our home country is.
In the West there is a sense of loss. We seem to have lost the belief that we can help change our culture. We seem to fear that our culture is lost forever, that everything is out of our hands. And, here, in Namibia, they are reaching out their hands, not for foreign aid, not for help from the Government, rather, they are reaching out their hands to be the change that they long for. No longer is it someone else’s problem—it is their problem and they have the audacity to believe that they can be the change.
We need to be more like Namibia. We need to be the change we long for.