Social Work Study Tour to Namibia

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

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Final Thoughts

I said good-bye to most of the group yesterday morning as they left for the airport for their long journey home (I stayed on a bit longer to quickly meet with some Namibian friends). I had dreamt about the possibilities of taking a group of MSW students to Namibia since shortly after I arrived in 2007 to work at UNAM for my sabbatical year. During the planning process of the trip, when Traci, Ndii and I were very much bogged down with the logistical details, I wondered if this trip would actually be worth the effort. However, I can enthusiastically say now that the Minnesota Social Work Study Tour to Namibia far-exceeded the lofty expectations that I had back in 2007.

We managed to pack in SO much into such a short-time. We visited over 20 organizations working on social development issues in Namibia , met incredible people devoted to improving the world, such as Father Rick, Patricia, Christa, Moses and many others, and learned more about social development than we ever could have sitting in a classroom. We were fortunate to have people welcome us into their homes – in the informal settlements of Katutura, in a rural San village, in a nothern Ovambo homestead, in a flood relief site, in modern homes in Windhoek and Oshakati, and even in the maximum security ward of the Windhoek Central Prison. We also saw the stunning and varied Namibian landscape in our “shortcuts” on the gravel highways and trips through the sand dunes, and were able to see the prized Africa wildlife--even a leopard. We had quite a few “off the beaten path” experiences which really helped shape our understanding of Namibia, the land of contrasts. While our trip was full of learning, it was also full of fun and adventure. As I told the group on the last night, my favorite part of the trip was being able to show 19 more people the wonders of Namibia.

My fears of mishaps were not realized. I enjoyed every single one of the students, and am amazed that such a large group traveled so well together and had such overall harmony. I am sure there could not have been a better group ever (Full Flexibility points for all!).

I really look forward to our final meeting as a group, when students will do their final presentations and we all will get a chance to reminisce about our “trip of a lifetime”.

Thanks to all for following our Blog! The folks at the conference were stunned when I told them that a travel blog could get 3,400 hundred hits in two weeks (and I was too).


((nearing the end of June, there are now about 5,000 hits. Wow!))

Last Days in Namibia

After our conference, we had our last group dinner at the famous Joe’s Beer House in Windhoek. We had our last chance to order Namibian game (there were orders of ostrich, zebra, gemsbok, springbok, kudu, and other exotic game at our table) and Namibian drinks. We had some somewhat spontaneous group toasts, and then each person stood up and spoke about their favorite “moments” of the trip. Elvis, our bus driver, even got up and shared his favorite moments! These moments were all over the map – including intense learning moments, great adventure moments, and just overall “moving” moments. It was great fun, and also even a bit emotional for some of us. It was a great end to a great trip.

The next morning most people made one last dash downtown for some shopping at the Pick & Pay (grocery store), the mall and the Craft Centre. While it seems as if we just arrived a day or two, the bags were all packed up at Puccini House, and the two minivans pulled up to take folks to the airport. What a great trip we had.

Traci at the meteorites displayed downtown in the Post Street Mall

Megan shopping at the Craft Centre

Eric preparing for the long plane ride

Our Last Group Photo

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Back in Windhoek, we had a day off to relax and get ready for our presentations at the conference to be held on our final full day in Namibia (and visit the Craft Centre).

Our students were honored to be invited by the Namibian Social Work Association (NASWA) to present at their national conference. This was a great opportunity for us on the trip. Folks prepared their presentations before we left for Namibia, but I think it didn't really hit everyone that we would be presenting at this conference until we saw the advertisement in The Namibian newspaper about it when we were in Oshakati (or that our presentations would be the entirety of the conference)!

The Ad in the Namibian

I was really impressed by how well all six groups were able to integrate what they learned about Namibia during the trip into their presentations, or as they would say in Namibia, how they "Namibianized" their presentations. The presentations were really well-received, and their was really active participation by all the attendees of the conference.

The conference venue was the Windhoek Central Hospital

Conference program

Liz giving the keynote

Kristina lecturing on social marketing

Kao Lee, Christi and Gina speaking about volunteering

Small group discussions during the conference