In a landscape where the word ‘hero’ is only semantically correct when placed in the same sentence with exile and liberation fighters, it is an open secret that Namibia has personalities outside the exile box doing the same, if not better.
How about mothers as heroes? And the one outstanding fact about mothers is their outpouring love that is non-judgmental and beautiful, even for the innocent abandoned by society.
As we get close to celebrating heroes (living heroes) in the month of August, The Lounge caught up with a mother for all; the dumped, neglected and left behind by circumstances.
Maria Shaalukeni, simply known as Mee Maria in Katutura’s Shandubala is one of many living examples of a heroine.
It all started in 1981 when the now 64 year old came to Windhoek with her husband, both working for the Roman Catholic Church. She started a kindergarten eight years later, just at the stroke of Independence.
“Things were getting bad with children being dumped and some simply being abandoned because their parents did not want them. I have a soft spot for children and seeing them suffer bothers me.”
The Megameno Orphanage Home as it has come to be popularly known is home to 25 children from age zero to 18.
Mee Maria says some have come and gone and some that she has sheltered are now finding their feet in society.
“When I stared this chapter of my life, I went vocal in every sphere of influence telling young mothers not to throw away their babies like they were throwing away trash.
I told them that if they were shy or afraid to be seen, they should drop their babies in my yard and no one would see them.
I just did not want to hear of any babies being thrown away anymore.”
Born in a family of eight, Mee Maria said their household was always full of her siblings and other children from her extended family – a time in her life where her love for children originates from, she says.
Today she houses children whose parents are no more, children whose parental whereabouts are a mystery and those whose parents simply do not want them, she said.
“For those that come to my house saying that they no longer want their babies, I ask them to live with me and the baby for a few weeks. As time goes by, they automatically changed their minds as the love for their child starts to build.”
With 25 children under her care, in addition to her biological children that she still shelters, Mee Maria says her means of survival is mostly from hand to mouth since she has lost hope in the government ever helping her.
She said she has visited and knocked on various office doors but her persuasion did not bear any results.
“Children are a blessing from God and I cannot sit back because there is no help from government.
I will take care of the children because you never know who is going to feed you or even bury you.
But I am lucky that the members from the community always come out to help. Sometimes I sit in the morning and wonder what I will feed the children for dinner.
In the blink of an eye, someone will drop by and give us food. So that is how we live and have always lived.”
Of the 25 children, only 5 benefit from the government grants, a challenge Mee Maria says hits the orphanage hard on a daily basis.
“Children need to eat a lot. But not just that, they need to go to school and to be taken to the clinic when they are sick.
So it is a struggle but I have to pull means together for these children to be happy.”
On the greater scope of things, some of the children who have come to the orphanage for some time are now in university and Mee Maria says, it is her wish that they pass, find jobs and be able to support the younger ones.
It was interesting to find out how she goes about getting identity documents and naming the children, Mee Maria says the social workers help with the facilitation of the documents while the naming is something simple.
“I give them names and many of them have my surname. What do you really do when you cannot trace the family of the child? The non-Oshiwambo children are now mastering the language and the little English that we teach them.”
“But my last plea goes to young ladies. I want them to be responsible. And if things do not go as expected; do not throw your child away.
Mee Maria will always take the child in. I also want parents to start having close relationships with their daughters. The girls need guidance.
The passionate mother said, while government only recognizes exile legends, there are many other people doing great things in this country and are heroes in their own right.
As we celebrate heroes this month, let us take our collective hats off for society’s greats.