In Namibia for 18 years

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In Namibia for 18 years – a milestone for project manager Sonja Schneider-Waterberg. A short interview:

Actually, every steps supporter also knows the Okakarara location – the place, where it all began. You've been there since the beginning - just like foundation founder Michael Hoppe and have all been there for the first time Namibia Witnessed: The founding of the Red Cross House, the first preschool, the first guardian angel children, the first income-earning step, the first volunteer. It has now been 18 years since you settled in Namibia and made your home here. For 18 years you have not only followed the development of Okakarara and steps for children, you have helped shape them.

How did you come to Namibia?

As a child, I always had the question in my head: “Why don't I actually live in Africa?” After graduating from high school, studying, doing my traineeship and a few great years as a teacher, I applied for a sabbatical to find an answer to the question about life in Africa to find. After two months in Okakarara, I already suspected that the answer was: “From now on I live in Africa.”

2006: The first preschool children together with Sonja Schneider-Waterberg in Okakarara.

We have already picked out important milestones that have shaped Okakarara and make it what it is today. Which progress made you particularly happy?

The consistent construction and further development of the Guardian Angel Program, which was also set up at all other locations, is a particularly pleasing process. Thanks to the convinced support of numerous guardian angels, we have a social step in which we accompany at least some of the preschool children for years, share their joys, sorrows and successes with them and make it possible for them to actually have a future that they can shape themselves.

In addition to progress, there have also been challenges in these 18 years - which ones do you particularly remember?

The greatest challenge and at the same time the greatest enrichment for everyone involved is everyday life in intercultural interaction.

Are there any new goals that you and your team are striving for for the Okakarara and Ongombombonde locations?

Big goal 1: My utopian vision, which I stubbornly pursue: Build a team so strong no one can point out the leader.

Big goal 2: Ongombombonde as Center of Excellence for regenerative, sustainable, holistic agriculture - a learning place for children & adults, the steps team, the surrounding community, the residents of the communal land east of Ongombombonde and for everyone who is interested in what they see developing there.

There is great community cohesion in Okakarara. What does it mean to celebrate an anniversary together with steps employees, but also the community from Okakarara, who have regularly supported you on site in implementing different things?

While the institutions often have a hard time with us and look a little longingly at our constant progress, we have received a lot of support from individual people, some of whom have supported us over the entire 18 years: including incumbents who have opted out of the steps -The idea has inspired us, but above all countless people without offices who feel comfortable at steps and contribute what they can.

from left: Sonja Schneider-Waterberg with Festus Tjikuua, member of the Board of Trust from the beginning, now Chairman

Your role as project manager of steps Okakarara remains - but since the end of 2023 you have also been national coordinator and therefore responsible for steps in Namibia. Congratulations! What has changed since then?

The workload 😎 Overall, the new task offers the opportunity to carry proven instruments from Okakarara to the other locations after checking and adapting them in the group of project managers, thereby simplifying the work on the one hand and generating more synergies between the different locations on the other to highlight more clearly what is special about the steps idea, while at the same time maintaining the individual character of the local projects.

We are pleased that we can also get an insight into the local celebrations from Germany and other parts of the world. With the anniversary in Okakarara, we are not only celebrating the location, but also the beginning of steps in Namibia. What contribution can I make as a supporter to promote the work of the foundation as a whole?

Stay with us. As hard as we work to ensure that the projects are financially self-sustaining one day, we need the continued cooperation of our colleagues, supporters and donors in Germany and Switzerland, because real sustainability is mutual Collaboration between the northern and southern hemispheres is based on better understanding of each other and knowledge of the respective challenges and hopes.

Thank you for the interview and for sharing your personal experiences with us, dear Sonja! 

Here more from Okakarara:

7 tips for congratulating!

7 tips on how you can congratulate Okakarara on his 18th birthday. The steps facility in Namibia is happy about support and support for his 18th birthday. This serves primarily for further development

Vacation in Namibia - social commitment at steps in Okakarara

Vacation with steps in Namibia

Vacation with steps in Namibia Christiane Büscher went on a social vacation with steps for children in Namibia, which she tells us about here. It was a great opportunity for her

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Lucas as a short-term volunteer in Namibia

Lucas as a short-term volunteer in Namibia asks steps – Lucas answers! He is currently working as a short-term volunteer in Namibia at our Okakarara location and is sharing some of his experiences here

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