June 1, 2001 - Albertson College of Idaho: Peace Corps volunteer Dawnine Clews was a teacher and companion to children in Namibia

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Namibia: Peace Corps Namibia : The Peace Corps in Namibia: June 1, 2001 - Albertson College of Idaho: Peace Corps volunteer Dawnine Clews was a teacher and companion to children in Namibia

By Admin1 (admin) on Friday, August 15, 2003 - 9:18 am: Edit Post

Peace Corps volunteer Dawnine Clews was a teacher and companion to children in Namibia

Peace Corps volunteer Dawnine Clews was a teacher and companion to children in Namibia

Pale skin, insects
don't deter spirit
of volunteer in Africa

By Dawnine K. Clews '97

AFRICA. Insects the size of rodents. Sand in your food, hair, eyes and places you’d rather not imagine. Dances that would challenge the most versatile athletes. And cultures so rich in history and tradition that the distant past and the now are sometimes indistinguishable.

That is where I lived. Worked. Slept. Breathed. It is an experience that has shaped me and has directly influenced my decision to remain abroad. I have memories that I cannot describe to people who have not been there — and by there I mean the exact location of my footsteps in the shifting sand.

I chose the U.S. Peace Corps and they chose me. I became a teacher and enjoyed it, which I never expected. I was sent to Namibia, a young country in southern Africa. After only 10 years of independence (March 1990), residue from the fighting and oppression of the apartheid regime are still evident. Unexploded mines continue to maim farmers, children and other innocents. Bloodshed and violence are common occurrences and funerals are so frequent that they are merely taken as another event to attend and another reason to pop open another beer — bottled Tafel or the local traditional blend. And education is still an under-utilized option.

The government of Namibia has repeatedly made a commitment toward education and invited the Peace Corps to assist them. There are approximately 125 Peace Corps volunteers in Namibia. All of us, despite our individual job descriptions, were in education.

I taught mathematics and science at Epako Junior Secondary School in Gobabis, Namibia. The school was a “location” school during apartheid. In other words it was for the black people. The Afrikaners, the ruling white class, lived in town in western-style buildings with western-style amenities. The coloured location, Nossobville, housed people of mixed black and white blood. Epako, which is the furthest from the town, was where the black people were relegated. Within its borders, which were once heavily fenced and locked at night, the different tribes were even separated.

Gobabis is a central town much larger than a village and with many amenities that, as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I did not expect. Besides those creature comforts, of which there were relatively few, I was blessed with the chance to interact and become friends with people of very different tribes.

With their history of apartheid and the continuing social tension between the various cultures I was at once an oddity and a spectacle. My skin is pale, yet I lived in the Paaie Camp (“work camp”) where the nearest white household was nearly two kilometres away. I was female and lived with another female volunteer, who also happened to be white... and we WERE NOT afraid to live there. In addition, we invited two Setswanas to live with us, free of charge. I didn’t speak Afrikaans, the most commonly spoken language in the area, and I would willingly greet people in their own tribal languages — which brought the most beautiful smiles from weathered faces used to more sorrow than joy.

I walked wherever I needed to go and lived very simply. I attended any cultural event I was invited to and cheered on the dancers in my own, uniquely American, way. I wasn’t afraid to shake a hand, kiss a cheek or play with the adorable but incredibly dusty children. I taught mathematics and science, two of the most difficult subjects to pass in Namibia, to learners in grades 8 through 10 who ranged in age from my youngest learner, 12-year-old Katjigisiua, to a 21-year-old Angolan refugee. I was only 22 and significantly more educated than many of my colleagues, though less directly experienced in teaching. I didn’t have a car but I had an open heart.

In the end that was all I needed. I tried to give them my best; to help wherever I could; and to make a contribution to their lives. In return they gave me colorful memories, exceptional experiences and eternal friendships. It was the hardest job I ever loved.

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Story Source: Albertson College of Idaho

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Namibia



By Derk de Haan (cacheflow.kpn.com - on Friday, November 07, 2003 - 8:08 am: Edit Post

Hi Dawnine,

Remember me from Gobabis, it's Derk. I was there together with Mark and Tamara. We all came from the Netherlands. Please mail me.
So we can be in contact again, I'm also looking for the mailadresses of Heather and Vanessa.

Lots of love from the Netherlands.

By Dawnine K Clews ( - on Wednesday, April 13, 2005 - 12:16 pm: Edit Post

Dear Derk: I came across this posting only today. I never knew it was here. I was trying to research some family names and noticed MINE! What a surprise. I wrote this article for my University and am surprised at the memories it recalls, even now.

Right now I am living in Taichung, Taiwan teaching English. It seems that Peace Corps did that for me to. They made me a teacher. Even when I am not in a classroom, I am a teacher.

I love my job, though, and I have remained abroad. I dearly miss Namibia and went back in 2002 to visit Heather and her husband, Ndumba. The situation in Angola had been resolved and it was safe to travel along the Kavango River again, which is where his family's homestead is.

I keep in touch with some of the teachers (Namibians) who I knew in Epako. I also keep in touch with Heather and Vanessa, among others from PC Namibia. I'm sentimental in that way.

By Derk de Haan (tty-amsterdam.xs4all.nl - on Tuesday, December 18, 2007 - 9:12 am: Edit Post

Hey Dawnine...

Another two years later, and I read your reply ;) I would love to be in contact.

Mail me at iceoner@gmail.com

I got some pictues of Heather's and Ndumba's child, which was quite a while ago. I'm doing fine at the moment.

I got a little son, got married. Got divorced quite soon after that. Now I have a new girlfriend, and I love her to pieces. We moved in together and will be getting a daughter at around the beginning of 2008.

Really wondering how you all are doing. And what is going on in your lives!

Let me know!!

Love Derk!

By Dawnine K Clews ( on Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - 12:29 pm: Edit Post

two years again and I see this message. i'm glad that you included your e-mail this time so I will send a message off to you directly!

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