Friendly Haven Shelter celebrates its 10th anniversary.
The Ecumenical Social Diaconate Action had two aims in creating this shelter. The first was to provide a caring and safe environment for survivors of violence, enabling them to make decisions about their future. The second aim was to reduce the levels of gender based violence through advocacy and the raising of awareness.
Over the past decade, the shelter has assisted hundreds of women, children and men fleeing abusive households. The shelter provides a variety of services including sheltering for up to three weeks, spiritual support, legal assistance with court cases, relationship and family counseling, group therapy, police assistance, safe transport and protection of clients, and opportunities for self-development. Many of the shelter's clients are referred by the shelter's main partner, the Women and Child Protection Unit.
Shelter Manager and Social Worker, Amor Britz, told Sister Namibia that Friendly Haven will be celebrating its tenth anniversary by strengthening its relationship with shelters in Rehoboth, Walvis Bay and Tsumeb. Through a weeklong workshop and familiarisation visits, the shelters hope to learn from each other. A group of shelter managers from South Africa will also be attending the workshop. They expect to share experiences and identify areas in which shelters can provide each other with support. Participants will also visit NGOs who work with orphans and vulnerable children, HIV/Aids and gender based violence. The week will culminate in a celebration dinner where participants will acknowledge the work done by the shelter over the years despite the many challenges they've faced.
Many obstacles make working with gender based violence difficult. Despite the fact that it is one of the biggest problems this country faces, it receives the least attention. People do not understand the complexities of it, for example the different types of violence. Also, because domestic violence is accepted in Namibian society, people do not take it seriously. "That is why people who live in abusive environments do not speak out - it is only when we counsel survivors that they realise how serious it is and what the impact of the abuse has had on them and their family," she notes.
Even after being urged to live with relatives, a number of clients will return to their abusive homes. Amor stressed that more awareness raising needs to be done so that people can understand and act accordingly. She also asserts that the link between high rates of gender based violence and other social challenges such as poverty, unemployment and alcohol abuse must be acknowledged.
Friendly Haven serves not only women, but children as well. Over the past ten years, at least half of the clients have been children, and in recent years, Amor has observed an increase in the number of children needing their services. "We've had ten and eleven year old children from the squatter camps in Okahandja Park and Ontevrede who have never been to school and who have been exposed to rape and child labour." The shelter also receives many orphans who are abused or raped by the very relatives who are supposed to care for them. "Our children experience a lot of violence and I fear for the future when I see how many of our young generation are raised in a culture of violence."
Friendly Haven is mainly funded by donor agencies, while Amor's salary is paid for by the government. Voluntary assistance in the area of qualified counselors, financial and human resource management and proposal writing is always needed. Despite its limited resources, however, the Friendly Haven Shelter has made a difference in the lives of many Namibians. We wish them all the best and we hope, in the near future, their services are no longer needed.
You can contact the Friendly Haven Shelter by calling 25 1442 in Windhoek.
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|Date:||Sep 1, 2006|
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