In 2004/5 the initiator of steps for children, Michael Hoppe, was in Kenya, South Africa and twice in Namibia. He was looking for a suitable project location to implement his vision of sustainably helping children in need. Erika von Wietersheim, a German Namibian, introduced Michael Hoppe to Okakarara.
How steps for children came about - told by Michael Hoppe
Many of the projects I visited in Africa were partly well organized and equipped, but in the long run they always depend on new donations and support from third parties. Some were about to expire because donors in distant Europe or America had turned away. In order to avoid this problem, I developed the concept of income-generating projects.
According to this, the parties involved do business locally by offering goods or services that secure their own income. The social projects (eg a preschool or soup kitchen) are then also paid from this income. Both modules, the social on the one hand, the income-generating on the other, make up the overall project.
On my second visit to Okakarara in August 2005, Pastor Assaph Kandjeo visited me. He had heard of my plans and shared my vision of doing something for children in need.
Assaph had been thinking about such a project with a few other parishioners for two years; So far, however, the necessary money and support have been lacking. After lengthy discussions, we agreed that we would have to present the project idea to the traditional chiefs in order to get advice from them and receive their blessing. So I presented our plans to the Chiefs Kambazembi and Tjikuua, their advisors, the Regional Councilor and about 20 parishioners.
After many questions and internal discussions, Chief Kambazembi announced: “We welcome you and your project to Okakarara. The imprint that your foot leaves here in the sand will never be blown away by the wind. ”I thanked him and asked the community for a larger plot of land to realize the project idea. After about four weeks I received the notification that the community wanted to provide us with 60.000 square meters at the entrance to the town.
So the decision for Okakarara and the first project (soup kitchen and preschool) was made. Everything was fine: I had found a church in need that wanted and supported the project, in addition there was a pastor with the same vision and a city councilor who provided the necessary land.
Pastor Assaph and I put together a task team made up of four members of the congregation who planned the pre-school and soup kitchen.
In the second week of March the time had come: Jürgen Schmotz helped to bring school furniture to Okakarara and also packed a used carpet and paint. There was also a vicar from the Evangelical Church and Sonja Schneider-Waterberg, a teacher of my daughter from the Sophie Barat School in Hamburg. Sonja had already helped me with translation work and other project preparations in Hamburg and was now considering spending a Sabbath year with steps for children in Okakarara.
Jürgen, Sonja, Assaph and the vicar painted the walls together, attached shelves, set up the school furniture and unpacked the dishes. Done: the children could come!
Two projects were now housed in the same building, the sewing room by Gertrud and Jürgen Schmotz and steps for children.
After the collaboration with the sewing project initiated by Gertrud and Jürgen Schmotz had become closer and closer, we decided to act together under the name steps for children from mid-2006. The friends of Namibia in Augsburg, who are behind the Schmotz couple, also participated in the purchase of the new house and, from November 2006, in the running costs.
The German teacher Sonja Schneider-Waterberg decided to spend her Sabbath year with steps for children in Namibia. From August 2006, she became a valuable aid in the project and a mediator between the cultures. In August 2007, she extended her contract by two years. Together with Assaph, she forms the local management today and continues to take on new tasks. For example, she gives tutoring and is the direct supervisor of the sewing women, is involved in the training of the preschool teachers, is responsible for accounting and reporting, and is now the contact for almost all employees, visitors and volunteers