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From boardroom to shack – feeling the reality of informal settlements

From boardroom to shack – feeling the reality of informal settlements

Theopolina Heita (middle) this week hosted two guests at her modest shack in Hakahana. Faan Bergh (left) and Brit du Plessis (right) took a day off from their usual office duties to join a group of business people who visited members of the Shack Dwellers Federation at their homes.

The visit was part of the sensitisation process to garner support for the Buy-a-Brick challenge, Standard Bank’s contribution to make life easier for people who daily experience the reality of living in a shack.

The Buy-a-Brick campaign challenges business to buy erasers as a substitute for bricks. For every small rubber brick sold, the bank contributes to a fund that assist shack dwellers to buy the material they need to build their own houses. This process is guided and monitored by the Shack Dwellers Federation.

Bringing the bosses to the people was the initiative of Standard Bank’s CEO, Vetumbuavi Mungunda as part of his office’s outreach programme. The bank invited a number of prominent clients to join them on a trip to Havana, One Nation and Okahandja Park, three of Katutura’s sprawling informal settlements.

“The Standard Bank Buy-a-Brick initiative, which was launched last year, is not a new undertaking for us. In fact as a good corporate citizen it is a campaign very close to our hearts. It has also come a long way in alleviating the shortage of housing through our 10-year partnership with the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia of which the First Lady, Madam Monica Geingos is the Patron,” said Mungunda.

To make the experience authentic, the company bosses had to hitch a taxi ride to their guests for the day. The high-ranking visitors each visited a designated host where they engaged in serious talk about the housing shortage, and life in “blikkiesdorp.”

Mungunda said that what struck him the most was to see how each one of the visiting Captains of Industry engaged their fellow countrymen and women to understand the complexity of the housing challenge.

The Minister of Urban and Rural Development, Hon Sophia Shaningwa and the Mayor of Windhoek, His Worship Muesee Kazapua, were among the special day’s visitors.

Kazapua said “We are talking to the emotions of business leaders to experience the enormity of the challenges facing low or no-income households. This gives us an understanding of what they go through on a daily basis. In actual fact three hours was not enough, but I believe it gives way to a call to action from all of us to work together and partner in addressing the housing shortage in our country and look at ways and means to take people out of shacks, that are prone to rain, cold and heat and move them into proper structured brick houses, a worthwhile investment and a place they can call home,” he stressed.

Minister Shaningwa strongly advised the residents to register with the Shack Dwellers Federation so they can also build their brick houses. She encouraged corporate entities and institutions from the private sector to emulate the bank’s example.

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