The Khorixas Youth Activists are a dynamic and diverse group of young, dedicated and passionate community volunteers whose aim is to institute sustainable change in Namibia, beginning with their own town. Since the beginning of 2016, KYA has worked to collaboratively plan and organize events based around youth development in order to increase learner knowledge, cultural understanding and community participation. These events and programs have succeeded in creating excitement among the Youth of Khorixas and continue to do so as the aims and objectives of KYA broaden and expand to further networks with their limitless possibilities. KYA intends to work with a variety of stakeholders within Khorixas and beyond in order to create education and sustainable development for the current and future generations of Namibia’s youth.
This profile was written nearly six months ago as we were deciding what direction our activist group was going to take, and it is only fitting that I write about this talented group of people on the one year anniversary of its birth. After hearing about the Nelson Mandela YALI program that a few of my colleagues were going to interview for, I decided to go along with them to a nearby village called Kamanjab to support them in their interview process. Although I had met most of them previously, I was instantly impressed by the level of thoughtfulness and intellect that these participants had, and the vast ranges of professional capacities that they all possessed. I was fortunate enough to be getting a ride back to Khorixas with them once their interviews were through, and that is where the start of the Khorixas Youth Activists took place. We discussed how there are quite a few different activist leaders within the Khorixas community, and we all seemed to be working towards a common goal, but where were the youth forums that allowed us to share this hard work with other like-minded individuals? If there was not one available to us, we surely had the tenacity and wherewithal to begin one ourselves. And not a month later, the first monthly Khorixas Youth Activist meeting took place.
Throughout the last year, this ragtag group of dedicated individuals has collaborated on quite a few projects together. An accountant, a teacher, a Peace Corps volunteer, a community education volunteer, a radio programmer, and a chief officer of Youth programs all came together on multiple occasions to create a fun atmosphere around education, hoping to encourage the interest and excitement of learners throughout the Khorixas region. We realize that we do not have a large scale impact, but the small scale impact that we make in even one learner’s life is enough to keep us sustained and feeling worthwhile. Even if it only happens for one learner, that behavior change will stay with them for a long time in the future, and the friendships that I have made with this group of people will surely last a lifetime.
Our first event that we put on as a group was the District Educational Quiz Bowl that incorporated all of six of the schools in the Khorixas town as well as the agricultural school nearby. The learners competed in a series of jeopardy style question and answer segments, with topics such as English Comprehension, Science and Biology, and Agriculture. Points were calculated by judges and the audience consisted of parents, teachers and community members alike. The energy of the room was palpable and the learners had a wonderful time – the top learners were even told that they would be invited to a Treasure Hunt later in the year, incentivizing them to continue their educational investment and showing them that sometimes, their intelligence can get them farther than their materialistic concerns.
The second event that the Khorixas Youth Activists put on during 2016 was a Career Fair at the Ministry of Youth. We worked through many different universities and educational organizations throughout Namibia, inviting them to participate in bringing career advice and possibilities to rural areas. Many learners have never been outside of Khorixas, much less the Kunene region, in order to give themselves exposure to what is available to them in the educational and VTC avenues. Learners from all of the schools in Khorixas were present and were able to interact with educators, receive pamphlets and brochures concerning programs offered, as well as gain perspective on the importance of post-graduate education. In rural areas such as Khorixas, many learners do not see the relevance of furthering their studies, as many people feel content with working on their farms for the better part of their lives. For youth at such a young age to be exposed to the possibilities was impactful and truly meaningful for them.
The third and final event of the year consisted of the Treasure Hunt that was promised to the top scoring learners from the District Educational Quiz Bowl. These learners were invited to the nearby Sorris-Sorris Conservancy where the learned about environmental conservation from the wonderful conservancy manager, followed by a time management activity by one of our KYA members. Time management and decision making abilities have become one of the most important traits that I hope to pass along to learners in this community, as so few people here practice it. Then came the Treasure Hunt itself, comprised of six different checkpoints outside of the conservancy (in the heat of the day, under the intense Kunene sun) encompassing topics such as political knowledge, animal facts and a physical race at the very end. It was fun to watch the learners’ competitive drive as we grouped them into teams, with each of us as a leader with an animal name. Although my team did not win, plenty of rivalry was started that has carried over into our very adult lives and monthly KYA meetings. After our treasure hunt, we had the lunch set out that we had prepared the night before (polony sandwiches with tomato, lettuce and cheese). Might I add, KYA does not ask for funding or sponsorship for our events, so everything comes straight from the community. I respect this aspect of our events so much and I am even more proud of us for pulling them off, in a community that is very focused on how much money it takes to accomplish something. The final event of the day was a “Future Day” where the learners had to present themselves and their future goals, ambitions and drives to the rest of the group – this was practice in public speaking (something everyone in this community desperately needs) as well as to get them thinking creatively. Some of the learners sang songs, some created posters showing their motivation and others blew us away with poetry and heartfelt accounts of their desires. It was a thoroughly successful day that came together, as things usually, somehow, by the grace of some higher power, do in this country.
I feel incredibly privileged to know such an amazing group of motivated, brilliant and other-worldy people in a town that is oftentimes underwhelming, in both people and environment. My service would not have been nearly as rewarding without this organization and some of these individuals have become my closest friends in Khorixas. I know that we will stay in touch over the years, and we planning to meet up in other parts of the world throughout the years. There is the saying that God always provides and gives you what you need in your time of struggle (or something like that – been a while since I have read religious text) and I truly believe that KYA was sent to me in order to give me strength, positivity and friendship throughout my 2+ years in this community. I will always be thankful to these incredible, selfless individuals.