In Namibia, Harnessing Social Media for Community Benefit

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IT started with a Facebook status update. Touched by the plight of  Namibian families living in rural areas outside the central Namibian city of Grootfontein, Namibian filmmaker Patrick Mettler posted the image of a rural family sitting outside their home and a call for donations.

Anyone interested in supporting this family in the picture – Clothes, shoes, any stuff,” Mettler wrote on his Facebook wall, tagging 31 friends in the post. “I’m leaving for the village tomorrow – Please, inbox me. I can collect stuff after 6 today…Thanks my Dear Cadres, Buddies & Friends!!!”

Within four hours, Mettler had received more than 30 offers for support and donations of clothing worth more than $3,000 (N$20,000), blankets and food from friends and community organizations in Namibia.

“I will contact my staff to prepare a Christmas package,” said a representative of the group Rich Kids Store. “We are situated at Maerua Mall. You can contact our assistant manager later today to arrange picking up of package.”

Mettler said he met the bushmen family in Tsumkwe, a rural village located nearly 350km outside Grootfontein a month ago and realized that they were cut off from basic commodities.

“Ivisited these people about a month ago, spending 10 days with two of the Bushmen /Nxau and /Nxui from 6:30 in the morning till late in the afternoon,” Mettler said. “They are truly amazing human beings. I couldn’t thank anyone who immediately raised to my humble plea, I’m sure everyone should look at me as the mere transport officer.”

tsumkweMettler said the experience had inspired him to form a Trust through which well wishers could continue to contribute basic commodities for the community.

“This is a true social media initiative, everyone is part of the newly established /Ui Trust,” Mettler said. “The name “/Ui” was given to me the last time I visited them, meaning “care” or “share”. Even though they make little money through tourist activities and homemade beeds, they don’t have the opportunity or privilege to visit any supermarket or clothing shop as Tsumkwe only has one Mini-Market, which mainly sells cigarettes, tobacco, tin food and maize meal.”

Namibia is one of Africa’s richest countries, with vast uranium and diamond deposits. However, inequalities in the distribution of wealth remain stark and people living in remote communities like Tsumkwe, whose primary economy is tourism, can barely produce their own food due to the harsh desert environment.