Co-ordinator at The Green Family SOS Children’s Village Ondangwa on his experience at the Village.
It’s a steaming 31 degrees in Ondangwa, Namibia and Charlton explains that it is meant to be winter in this Southern African country! Just 540km north of the nation’s capital, Ondangwa is home to one of the newer established SOS Children’s Villages.
Charlton has been with SOS Ondangwa since its inception in 2009. As the Child & Youth Development Co-ordinator for this Village, he plays an important role, particularly in the lives of SOS mothers. He provides support to SOS mothers through his supervisory position and his basic responsibilities involve giving advice and guidance around the development of all the children. In addition, Charlton maintains a close relationship with the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, as this is the body that approves the placement of vulnerable, orphaned and abandoned children into the Village.
Charlton explains that his typical day starts at 07h30, and he spends most of his mornings reviewing the case files of needy children in the surrounding community. As Charlton speaks, we are instantly touched by his undeniable inner strength. We are acutely aware that having to rummage through case files of the most dejected and vulnerable children in his community must be a gruelling and sad process. Coupled with this, Charlton reveals that an on-going challenge he faces on a daily basis is the lack of external support systems.
He, and the Village in Ondangwa, heavily relies upon support by government social workers and psychologists for psychological counselling and assistance. ‘Unfortunately’ he says, ‘they are few and far between. There are simply not enough of them in Ondangwa and the ‘handful’ that are accessible are over-worked and not always available.’
Despite all this, Charlton remains positive and upbeat. He is clearly passionate about his job and he readily tells a story that has touched his heart.
A young 2-year-old girl was brought to the Village in February 2011. She had been so badly neglected by her mother that she was not able to talk or walk. She had been deprived of adequate care, food, love and attention. Before coming to the Village, she was locked up in a room, all alone, whilst her mother went off to work each day. As a result, she had suffered severe emotional trauma and has issues around rejection and an intense fear of abandonment.
Thanks to the Green Family, she found a home at the SOS Children’s Village Ondangwa and this little girl was given her first family in an SOS home. For the first time she had a committed mother and loving brothers and sisters. Each day, her SOS mother would massage her legs in order to strengthen her tiny muscles. She was also taken by the hands and taught how to walk. Within two weeks of arriving at the Village, she was walking! ‘I am happy to report that today, after only a few months in our care, she is a much happier child and is healing well. She does not cry as much, she is walking on her own and she is happy to interact with her brothers and sisters and thoroughly enjoys playing in our open spaces’, says Charlton.
Charlton is a busy man and needs to tend to his usual business, but shares this with us before leaving, ‘Since I came to work here, it has been a joy for me to work with the children, it has caused me to see the other side of them; you cannot overlook their challenges and you just have to help, even if your resources are limited. To me, even with our limited resources, the help that we are giving to the children is great. We are making an impact and that is very important.’
Read the story of the new SOS Village