ONDANGWA, Namibia—In 2013, Selma was unable to provide her seven children with something she promised them that she would—an education.
A single mother, Selma, 37, had struggled to earn money to support her family. She had no education and no formal career training, and she lived in a rural area with limited economic opportunities. Making matters worse, Selma’s male partner died in 2012, leaving her alone to care for seven children, one of whom is her grandchild.
In 2013, Selma connected with the SOS Family-Strengthening Program in Ondangwa, Namibia, which partners with vulnerable families to help them effectively care for and protect their children. It’s one of 542 such SOS programs across the world.
SOS staff paid the school fees for Selma’s children and provided them with school uniforms—the lack of which prevents a number of children in the community, including Selma’s, from getting an education. The four oldest children are all in school. Through their participation in the SOS program, they received school uniforms and the two little ones’ fees were covered at the SOS Kindergarten.
"I am so proud that they are all doing well. I walk to the kindergarten every day to fetch the children,” said Selma.
Children at the SOS Kindergarten in Ondangwa, Namibia, are served lunch.
In addition to meeting the immediate needs of vulnerable families—such as food, shelter and the enrollment of children in school—SOS Family-Strengthening Programs focuse on helping vulnerable families become self-reliant.
“My hope was to participate in the SOS income-generating program so that I could provide for my family,” said Selma, who lives with her seven children in a home that is made of corrugated iron and has no running water or electricity.
After joining the SOS Family-Strengthening Program, Selma began financial management training, which is for many participants the first introduction to basic household budgeting.
With the help of a three-month stock supply from SOS, she started a business selling fat cakes, a popular snack in Namibia similar to fried dough or a beignet.
“We provide stock for three months to monitor progress and recommend adjustments when projects stumble. For us, there were visible indicators early on that Selma was showing a lot of self-reliance in her project,” said Helena Nangombe, the SOS Family-Strengthening Program coordinator in Ondangwa.
Selma also participates actively as a parent of the SOS Kindergarten, which serves 70 children. Her children also have fun at the kids’ clubs held at the SOS social center every Friday. “Now I know they have a space to go to play safely,” added Selma.
The Family-Strengthening Program in Ondangwa serves about 120 families and was opened in 2009. Across Namibia, there are about 530 families who participate in the program. Worldwide, there are more than 90,000 families enrolled an SOS Family-Strengthening Program.
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