Social Work Study Tour to Namibia

The University of Minnesota School of Social Work is studying in Namibia during May 2010.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

UNAM & Treesleeper

Friday morning we packed up from Puccini House for our trip up to the Northern part of Namibia. We first made a stop to the University of Namibia, where we spent about 3 hours with the social work faculty and students there. The social work students at UNAM are primarily from southern African countries, and the students we met were mostly 3rd and 4th year students. The UNAM social work lecturers and the UNAM Student Social Work Society made a formal program for us, which included an introduction to social work in Namibia by Janeta Ananias, and a discussion of the Herero Genocide and reparations movement by Esther Utjiua Muinjangue. The students then broke into groups, with about 8 UNAM students meeting with 1 or 2 U of Minnesota students. The students talked about social work in their various home countries, as well as more fun topics (such as “what do your shoes represent about you?”). The discussions apparently went well, as by the end, everyone was trading email addresses and promises to become Facebook friends, and the president of the Student Society wants to set up a formal relationship with our students at Minnesota.

Esther Muinjangue

We then climbed on the bus for our first long bus ride. We drove north up to Tsintsabis, about a 700 kilometer drive – most of the time on a major highway, the rest on a gravel road. The last few kilometers is a really rough road, and the bus barely made it through (and I thin

This is the Major highway

Our destination was the Treesleeper Camp. The Treesleeper Camp is owned and operated by the San people, one of the most marginalized groups of people in Namibia. They started this camp as a way to provide jobs for the some of the 3,000 people living in the area, to help protect the San culture, and to raise money for the community. The Treesleeper Camp is owned by two of the San tribes, and is managed by the quite remarkable Moses, one of only 9 San to have graduated from a university since Namibia got independence in 1990. Up until last year, Treesleeper was the major employer in Tsintsabis - with 7 people working at Treesleeper, and about 5 others working in town. In the five years that it has been open, Treesleeper has been able to get enough profits to build the first kindergarten in the area and is sending a number of kids to primary school now.

Treesleeper was named for the San tribe that lived in Etosha and slept in trees. At Treesleeper, they have built platforms so that you can camp in the tree as well. They set up one tent in the tree, and the rest were set up for us around in the bush.

Right after we got to Treesleeper, we were led to a fire where we were shown traditional San healing and other dances around the fire. A healer also came around and touched our cheeks to combine our spirits. A young San man was our guide for these dances.

After dinner, we walked back to the camp, and they had set up picnic tables around a fire, and we were served outside under the stars. A San church choir serenaded us while we were eating.

The Treesleeper has a Boma looking over a dry river bed. We enjoyed eating our breakfast and lunch here.


Frisbee Action at the Camp Site

Nancy J throwing the disc

Eric climbing the trees

The highlight of our trip to Treesleeper was the Village Tour given by Moses. Moses is an incredibly smart, young man who is clearly a future leader of the San. His knowledge of San culture, history, politics, economics, wildlife etc. were all incredible, but perhaps his best quality is his way he relates to his elders, which is full of respect and humility. We were all completely impressed.

Moses took us on a LONG, HOT walk from our campsite to the villages where the San live.

We first stopped at the local shop to buy some gifts for the families we were visiting - maize meal, sugar, tea, oil, and a candle.

We visited two different families, each from one of the two main tribes living in the area. They rotate the visits among families. With each visit, we first greeted the elders, and then were told a little bit about the family. Moses then acted as our translator, and we could ask the elders or others in the family most any question we wanted.

Anna meeting the elder

The elder and his wife

Emma meeting the second family

On our way back, three hours later.

The whole group at Treesleeper

1 comment:

  1. Happy Birthday on Saturday to Megan. What a great way to celebrate turning 30. Enjoy your day of fun! Luvya, Mom