025_Back from Vacation, and matching donations now possible!

Written: 26 March 2017
Posted: 26 March 2017

Last night (Saturday), I returned from a nine day vacation in the Kunene Region (used to be called Kaokoland) of Namibia – North West corner of Namibia, next to Angola, and just east of the Skeleton Coast. It was serious four wheel drive country, and this was definitely not your usual tourist jaunt! We were in the heartland of the Himba people, the tribe that adheres to their customs more closely than any other tribal affiliation in Namibia. Fascinating! I’m going to make a post on that trip, with photos, soon.

For now, I wanted to let everyone know that a friend of mine has offered to make matching donations for new donations until the grant to start the Sustainable Poultry Project is filled! Thank you so much, “J”.

We need to raise another US $2,000 or so to complete the grant, so if you haven’t already contributed, please consider doing it now! You will need to let me know via personal email, or on this blog with a comment, so the exceptionally generous donor can match your contribution. Your donation will be doubled! 

I feel a little like NPR! But we really need your help. Also you could mention this to people you know who might be willing to contribute anything! I’d LOVE to complete the grant in time to announce it Thursday evening this week when Penduka is hosting the American Ambassador, the Turkish Ambassador, the Governor of Khomas Region, and the Mayor of Windhoek with the entire Municipality Council! The Thursday event is a big deal!

Go to https://donate.peacecorps.gov/donate/project/sustainable-poultry-project/, or use this link to DONATE, or tell people to go to www.peacecorps.gov/donate and search out the project under my name, or under “Namibia” (Sustainable Poultry Project).

100% of all donations go directly to the project, I am personally responsible to the Peace Corps for grant accountability, and when this is done the programs for eggs and broiler chicks are self-sustaining; never needing another grant to keep producing eggs and meat for the community around Penduka Village, and making a profit for Penduka Trust. 

Penduka helps empower women and their communities to improve their own lives. Please help us fulfill this mission statement.





024_Penduka’s Sustainable Poultry Program

Written: 15 March 2017
Posted: 16 March 2017

See a video of Penduka, and my work here, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15ck5vSuwOs.

“Penduka helps empower women and their communities to improve their own lives.”

That is the Penduka Trust mission statement, and Penduka Village needs your help in this mission. The village management is starting a broiler chicken program (meat chickens, as opposed to layers for eggs) and they need the equipment and initial day old chicks to get it going.

Once it is started, the program is FULLY SUSTAINABLE! It will provide income for Penduka Village, and protein for the Katutura community (one of the lowest incomes areas in Namibia, and THE lowest income area in Windhoek), indefinitely – probably for years, maybe decades. No further funding will be required – ever! The Peace Corps is running a donation site that ensures 100% of the money goes to the project with no administration fees.

Over the past year, the women have proven their ability to run a successful poultry operation. We have 109 of the original 150 chicks received one year ago (there were a few “learning experiences”!). They are very healthy, and producing eggs profitably! Egg production rates are around 4.7 eggs/layer/week even six months into their egg producing lives.That is very good!

The laying hens as of 14 March 2017
Layers at 1 year old_P2260003

Liina with one day’s egg harvest.
Liina with a bucket of eggs

The village needs US $3,500 to add to the US $1,500 they have already raised or contributed locally. Contributions can be made at the Peace Corps donations web site for this project. There is no fear of the money going to any other purpose or individual.

Care for the Layers and Broilers is the responsibility of Fillipus Iita, one of the two men of the 30 employees of the village, and over 200+ women that depend on Penduka for their livings for themselves and their families. Fillipus takes care of all poultry and grounds maintenance. He lives here at Penduka.

Fillipus Iita

A monthly Poultry Program Financial Review is run by Liina Shikongo, Sr. Manager for Hospitality. We just started that review process, and it was a requirement that it be successfully started before we went out for this grant.

Liina in her first financial review! Now it happens monthly.
liina at monthly layer profitability review

The program will produce 100 new broilers every two weeks starting about two months after the first chicks are received. Markets near Penduka have agreed to carry some of the slaughtered birds, and some will be sold, live, on the streets of Katutura outside of Penduka. The birds will also supply the needs of the tourist restaurant at Penduka, and some will be sold to the women that work here. We don’t give them away to the women; this is as part of the mission to empower women to take care of themselves – not to just expect handouts.

The village already purchased, with part of their contribution, the next 160 layers. Those chicks are just over one week old.

New Chicks, one day old, on the day of delivery.
Chicks being delivered

The cages that will be purchased with your help look like this. There is plenty of room for broilers, and they are raised organically with no hormones or chemicals other than a one-time inoculation against diseases when they are a few weeks old. The cages have a five year warranty, and are expected to last more than 20 years.

Cages from the inside – a chick’s eye view!

Please make a contribution of whatever you can afford. 100% of it goes to the project and there is no misuse of funds.With 20 more contributions of $100 we can fund this project quickly, but any size contribution is welcomed.

I will post updates to the project on this blog at key events (such as the cages being received and assembled, the first batch of broiler chicks, the first time all four cages are full (six weeks into the program) and the first group of broilers ready for market, plus a time or two in between. You will also see the layer chicks as they grow. It takes them 22 weeks to start laying, and they are just over one week old now.

Liina with one-week old chicks
Liina with new chicks

Just click “Follow” on the lower right of this screen and you’ll get an email of new blog posts when I make them. No other advertising or bother – just an email of the update blogs.

Unless you post anonymously (which is possible), I will get a list of donors and will ensure you get a note of thanks from Kauna Simon, the General Manager of Penduka Village.

Kauna Simon, General Manager of Penduka

Penduka was founded in 1992, and is the oldest continuously operating NGO in Namibia. The Deed of Trust for the registered Trust is to support low-income and disadvantaged women, with an emphasis on women with disabilities, who would otherwise have difficulty finding employment, learn self-respect and be able to earn an income on their own with a small business, or to be employed by other organizations in Namibia.

Penduka fell on very hard times about 10 years ago and was in danger of failing 2-3 years ago, but are in “recovery” with Namibian women managing the village for the first time in its history, and a lot of help is learning how to manage! We have a web shop at PENDUKA.COM and you can see the products made here.

Please donate anything you can! The women are doing a great job of being responsible and making a living for themselves. Their salaries and payments for the piece work done by 180+ women are paid ONLY from revenues they generate – they get nothing from grants or donations, which are used exclusively to start new income generating projects.

Feel free to write if you have questions. Also PLEASE spread the word to your friends or organizations that may be able to help fill this grant! You can tell people to go to www.peacecorps.gov/donate, and search the project either under “Namibia”, or under my name: Andrew Garrison. The project name is “Sustainable Poultry Project“.

Thank you!




023-Just like everywhere, sometimes it’s sad.

Written: 3 March 2017
Posted: 4 March 2017

I have a relative who disagrees with me when I say my experience is that every person, regardless of culture or country, is, at a fundamental level, the same.  But I still maintain that is true. Sure, sometimes you have to look really deeply to see past the cultures, religious beliefs, personal characteristics, and other “stuff” to see the similarities, but they are there. We all just have different ways of dealing with life.

And death. The similarities are easier to see when tragedy and grief are involved, somehow.

Wednesday evening of last week, the son of one of the women here at Penduka was murdered. Thursday morning I went with the women here to her home. It’s not the same everywhere in the USA of course, but in the world I grew up in grief was contained. There was some veneer of control at least, and usually a deep surface obscuring the raw emotion below.

My father was a minister/pastor, and at funerals and such events he was always the one with words that were expected to be spoken. I never got to know him as an adult, he passed away many, many years ago. I have always been sad to realize my memories of him are of being intellectually compassionate, but not ever being able to just “connect” with him or my mother. Somehow he, and she, seemed able to do that with the people in his congregations, but I don’t recall being part of that kind of emotional connectedness within the family.When I tell that to my friends here, they have a hard time understanding it. Family, community, is integral to their existence in a way I am just barely beginning to comprehend. And when a close part of that existence is suddenly taken away …

Lydia, the mother, was more openly suffering from agonizing grief than anyone I’ve ever been around, or even known about. Maybe it was just the first time for me to be around someone that open with their grief but it is more common than I have personally experienced in my own cultural life. So I can’t say it is something unique to Namibians, or Africans, or any particular group. But the rawness of “experience” I see around me every day here has impacted me deeply. There was absolutely no attempt to contain the grief, and those who love her were there strictly for support as she did what she had to do – virtually fall apart emotionally, losing awareness of physical circumstances, appearance, or any semblance of control for at least a few hours on Thursday morning. Wailing and weeping not as a ritual show, but as the expression of the unbelievable pain she was feeling. And the family was just … there. Holding her, just being with her. I have never seen such raw emotion and grief in a human being. I think it would be impossible to be in the presence of such honesty and exposed vulnerability and not be moved to tears. I had absolutely no idea how to be of “use”, and more importantly I realized the most, and best, thing possible was to just be there. I’ve known that about supporting someone for a long time – but not like I understood it Thursday morning.

Later, I was standing in her kitchen listening to her colleagues from work, over 20 women and one man other than me, sitting and standing in the living room singing hymns and just being there. Even from another room, simply being in the presence of the grief the mother was feeling. As I looked at the faces of these women I have grown to know, and to love, in the past 21 months, I saw them each move from quiet awareness, through tears of sadness, to recovery and back again as their own thoughts moved through their consciousness. I could see them imagining their own families, their own children (for me, my daughter), their own frailties, and their own lives somehow being in the position that Lydia was in. Some of the women are in their 20s, some in their 60s, and all ages in between. Each in their own thoughts, flowing in a stream through whatever feeling was engulfing them in their own experience of the mother’s grief. The hymns were all in Oshiwambo, and I only understood a random word or two, but I understood the meanings clearly.

Even without the language, and with a totally different background, skin color, gender, and family situation, I was part of them in a way that I can’t describe. I learn so much from seeing the people here just experience living honestly. It was in stark opposition to the reality of the work world in which I know most of them almost exclusively. Some of them can be bitingly petty in their complaining about work, or each other, or Penduka Management, or any of the other things that people invariably manifest in real life. They are just like people anywhere – different in different situations.

For some reason, I found myself noting the specific conditions of the kitchen, which was really an alcove off of the “living room” – the main room in the house of three rooms. Unlike every other home within a 100-200 meter radius, this home had brick walls. The roof/ceiling was zinc plated corrugated sheet metal, but every other home was entirely made of those same metal sheets – walls, roof/ceiling … everything. Lydia (the mother) had worked hard her entire life and managed to save enough to have a really nice place to live compared to her neighbors. The faux-wood linoleum counters were worn through to white, and cut through as only decades can accomplish by occasionally letting the knife go too far in cutting the meat, or the bread. Only family living can do that to a kitchen. The walls had been painted countless times and in places had chipped so you could see layer on layer of old paint. The joints between the walls and deep corrugations of the ceiling/roof were filled with plaster, or grout, or caulking, that had broken out in places. I knew that what she experienced when it rained was the same as in my home – the sound of every rain drop hitting the roof that is only 2 or 3 millimeters from the ceiling since they were both the same sheet of metal. And when it rained hard (as it is now, as I write this), the sound is loud to the point you can’t hear someone talking next to you. The floor was an uneasy combination of poured concrete, tile, and linoleum that was uneven from the result of years of repairs as inexpensively as possible. The stamped metal sink, like the sink in my home, was the same as in almost every home I have seen here – utilitarian and highly functional. Many homes don’t even have a sink. All the washing is done in a pail outside by the community water faucet. Lydia even has running water in a single spigot over the sink – a luxury in Katutura.

Yet everything was clean – the kind of worn clean that comes from daily care. Even though poor, these people take pride in their homes and in the way they live their lives.

At one point, one of the family members walked around with a picture of the deceased son and let everyone look at, and hold, the image of her son Lydia kept on the wall in her room. It was very moving.

I had no idea what the expectations were for the cultural rituals when we showed up. I simply appeared at the home, and the women, my friends from Penduka and the family members, gently showed me what was expected in as loving a way as I have ever experienced, and often without sharing a common language. The expectations of a man’s behavior are usually very different from the expectations of a woman. Apparently not so in this kind of situation. I have rarely felt so accepted in spite of my differences as in this home of sadness.

The experience of living with a community in an entirely different culture, becoming part of it to whatever degree is possible, is one of the most valuable things a Peace Corps Volunteer can ever experience. I’m sure it varies by community, by individual, and by geography and culture. But at its core, there is so much to be learned.

If I can look back and feel like I’ve been able to give to this community even 10% of what I’ve gotten from them, I will feel fortunate, and useful.

Thursday morning was a very important memory and experience in two years’ worth of valuable experiences. I am in tears as I relive it for these inadequate notes, and I will always be immensely grateful for the opportunity to experience being welcomed into it by Lydia and her community and family.


It is almost anticlimactic to the story, but I felt you needed to have some experience of the Katutura community.


Each of these shelters/homes is made entirely of corrugated zinc coated metal. Over 200,000 people live in these homes, and a very small percentage of them have water in the home, electricity, or even indoor toilets. Most homes in Katutura share a pit latrine for a group of homes in the area. The houses go as far as the eye can see – this is a very, very small percentage of them. And this is within 1 kilometer of the entrance to Penduka where I live. I’ve been going up and down the streets for so long, almost always in taxis, that some of the residents have begun to recognize me and wave when I drive by.Grey hair and a white face are unusual here, and people notice, particularly the children.