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Why These Kids and Why Namibia?

How did we choose to create an organization dedicated to educating, empowering and encouraging children in distant Namibia, an often unknown African country?
The Gava Kids’ story begins during a 1997 safari in Botswana when my family met Heidi Dednam, a remarkable Namibian naturalist with an enduring love for the ecology of the region and the Topnaar People of the Namib Desert. She led the safari and it was one of my first trips to Africa. Three years later, at Heidi’s prompting, I went to Namibia for the first time and grew to love the landscape, region and the entire experience. I longed to return.
In 2001, I returned to Africa with a group of American women on a Namibian safari. One day we found ourselves in the middle of the Namib Desert, standing under a scorching sun, listening to Ouma Lydia Swartbooi, an incredibly tiny, Topnaar village matriarch, explain the medicinal properties of indigenous plants. We were mesmerized and enchanted by this ancient culture. Her great-grandson, Eugene (age five), was her interpreter. As the afternoon wore on we learned that Eugene had no parents – there was no one who could help him financially or help him navigate the obstacles to obtaining a proper education. Therefore, there was no chance of Eugene breaking the cycle of poverty. This was a true bolt of lightning moment for each of us. We all realized the amazing potential in front of us. With education, we could provide a lifetime of opportunity and affect real change in this young person’s life. It was instant and unanimous – we would pay for Eugene to start school that year!
I flew back home feeling naively self-satisfied. Well, of course, the next year I learned of two more kids needing the same financial and emotional support. I unexpectedly found myself creating the Gava Kids organization and now these young people and our mission consume my world. Inevitably, any time you start a new organization you face a host of challenges. I did and we do. These ongoing challenges have never diminished my commitment to the life-changing impact of education and our Gava Kids.

Kelly Austin
U.S. Director