Editor’s note: Jessica Witer, of Anna, left May 21 to spend the summer in Namibia, Africa, on a mission trip.
The 22-year-old, self-employed massage therapist is traveling with Experience Mission, of Fort Wayne, Indiana. As she is able and has access to the Internet, she will send tales of her experiences, which the Sidney Daily News will publish weekly.
OKAHANDJA, Namibia — The end of our first community: This is our last week with Paulis’s family. While I enjoy being here, working with the kids can be really hard. After breakfast, we go to the part of the home where they hold both lessons and Sunday services to help Maria with her students.
It’s difficult because of how different parenting is here and knowing there isn’t much you can do. One little girl continued to kick, bite and scratch us whenever we tried to correct her, which her aunt responded to by smacking her hand twice and sending her back to her seat. She kept it up, and finally, I picked her up and took her outside. I made her sit still while I counted down from two minutes even though she screamed and cried the whole time. When I got to zero, I told her if she bit any of us again, we’d come back outside for another time out. After this, she finally did her work and didn’t lash out at any of us.
I’m glad it worked, but I know that’s probably the only time she’ll get a time out instead of a spanking, so the long run hasn’t been affected. At first, I didn’t understand why so many of the kids were so unruly and why class was so unstructured. The children frequently hit us or each other when they’re angry, and I’ve had to discipline most of them once.
What I’ve been explained by Andy and what I’ve gathered from spending time with the locals here is that many, if not most, of these kids are not being raised in real households. The children here are often raised by single mothers or by their grandparents, and if they are raised by their moms, their moms most likely work all day.
Two of the girls we spend a lot of time with here are 19, younger than me, and each has a 5-year-old daughter and keeps no contact with the father. These kids rarely know their fathers and rarely see their mothers, because they have to work so much in order to provide for them.
When we take the kids out for recess, many play, but many want only to sit on our laps the whole hour. One of the boys is very possessive of me, and he wants me to hold him all the time. If I say, “Ouch,” when he braids my hair or stands on my feet, he says, “Sorry Mom,” to me. He isn’t the only kid who calls me “Mom,” either. My teammates have called me Mom since the second week of this trip as a joke, since I always take care of the cleaning, but I was shocked when so many of the kids started calling me that, too.
They say, “Please, Mom?” or “Mom, pick me up,” or “Come over here now, Mom.” It breaks my heart to see how desperate they are to have someone, anyone, fill that role for them. They only barely speak English. We’re new. We’re strangers, but they took to us so quickly. They talk so much and so excitedly, but the one thing I hear them say the most is, “Hold me, hold me, hold me!”