At just twenty-four years of age, Lisa Weylandt has already seen a lot of the world. Born and raised in Windhoek, she spent three years completing Matric in South Africa before heading to Scotland to study an undergraduate degree in social work. Lisa knows how fortunate she is to have opportunities like this – experiences that most young Namibians can only dream about - and it is not something she takes for granted.
Now back in Windhoek, Lisa is committed to helping the more vulnerable members of her community as a volunteer with the Namibia Red Cross Society’s Khomas office in Katutura.
Growing up in Windhoek, I was aware of some of the difficulties many people living in our local communities face. So when I returned from Scotland, where I completed my undergraduate degree, I decided now was the time to take action to support vulnerable members of Khomas communities.
I had heard of the Namibia Red Cross Society and, impressed by the vast amount of work they do, decided to approach the Khomas Office about volunteer opportunities.
Initially, I was concerned about how much work I would be able to do because I don’t speak any local languages, but when I met with Rodney and Penny of the Khomas Office they assured me everybody can help vulnerable people. The most important thing, they said, is finding something I enjoy doing and integrating this into the work of the Namibia Red Cross Society.
[Rodney Cloete is the Namibia Red Cross Society National Coordinator for Organisational Development and Khomas Regional Manager, and Penny Middleton is an Australian volunteer supporting organizational development in the Namibia Red Cross Society.]
My first week as a volunteer coincided with the National Immunization Campaign run by the Namibian Government. Namibia Red Cross Society volunteers assist nurses in immunizing Namibia’s children against diseases like Polio, so I spent my first week as a Red Cross volunteer administering vaccinations to young children at different locations in Windhoek. This was a great experience and highlighted yet again the generous spirit of many Namibians who gladly volunteer their time to contribute to important events like this one.
I have also experienced the day-to-day workings of the Khomas Office and was surprised to find how many vulnerable community members come to the office for social assistance. Unfortunately, due to limited resources, we have to turn people away. We have to make an assessment of each case and can only support the most vulnerable members of our society. For example, every day people suffering from HIV/AIDS ask us for food because they cannot take their medicine on an empty stomach, but we cannot afford to feed all the people who need our help. This made me realize that all Namibians really can help. People who cannot volunteer their time on national campaigns or events can still support our vulnerable community members by donating clothing, blankets and money for food.
The next activity I am excited to get involved in is developing Red Cross school clubs, where learners can gain basic first aid skills; learn how to be a humanitarian; help their school prepare for disasters and emergencies; and organize activities to help vulnerable people in their communities. University of Namibia students recently started a club and have already collected and distributed items to vulnerable community members. The clubs are a great way to get young people from different communities to interact with, and support, each other and I am looking forward to working with primary and secondary schools in Windhoek to get these clubs started.
Despite my initial concerns, I have come to realize in this very short time that anybody can get involved with the Namibian Red Cross Society. We welcome people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to join us by contributing their time, skills or - if they can - financial assistance. I hope many more will choose to do this so our pool of volunteers can better reflect our diverse nation and we can continue to contribute to the valuable work of the Namibia Red Cross Society.