Do You Hear Africa Calling?
Brother Mark Gruenke administers a small vocational training center located in a parish in rural Namibia. He has been running the project for five years. The students are mostly unemployed mothers in their early 20s who need to learn a marketable skill so that they might support themselves and their children.
He needs a volunteer each semester to teach the classes that are offered in basic office skills. This is a ten week commitment. Previous volunteers have assembled a very good set of course materials. The materials have been tested and perfected over the past four years. The present course curriculum is well developed and complete. The volunteer who comes to offer the course will find that the level of our students is very basic. If the volunteer has a college degree and/or any office experience, he or she will be more than qualified to teach the course. Classes are very small. This semester there are fifteen students divided into two classes. One group meets in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Currently, a retired couple is team teaching the course. A young local woman, Maria Nyangana, also helps conduct the classes. Maria is a teaching assistant who has been involved in the elaboration of the course and has helped all of the past volunteer teachers.
The office skills component is part of a larger, five-month-long program, in which basic computer skills are taught and English Language skills are honed. The local language is one of the Bantu dialects but all of the students have studied at least ten years in a government school where instruction is done in English. Past volunteers have all agreed that it is enjoyable to work with these students. The students very much need the skills training that is offered to them. Many of our former students have been successful in finding employment in a very scarce job market. The local community values the program and expresses its gratitude for the volunteers who come to help.
The volunteer is expected to pay for his or her own transportation to Windhoek, Namibia. There is lodging on the parish grounds for about US$75 per month. Volunteers can prepare their own meals in their apartment or eat prepared meals with the parish staff. In that case, a contribution toward the food expenses is also appreciated. Food costs are comparable to those in the USA. Our parish staff includes Fr. Charles Mikaya, a missionary from Malawi, Fr. Berthold, a recently ordained local priest, and Bro. Mark, a Maryknoll Brother. There are also two communities of Religious Sisters who live on the parish grounds. Located next door to the parish is a hospital staffed by five doctors.
At present, no one has volunteered for the second semester of 2011, which starts August 1 and ends at Christmas. The best time for a volunteer to come would include October and November, but scheduling of the ten-week Office Skills component is flexible during the semester. Another volunteer is needed for the first semester of 2012. April and May would be the best months to come during that semester.
Maryknoll Magazine articles about Br. Mark’s program:
Not So Far Afield article: