Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Camp shows African boys the American way of life

Luke Heinkel is a Nam 25 PCV in Opuwo, just NW of Amy about 70 km.

Camp shows African boys the American way of life

Johannes Halunga, 14, and Aly Shatika, 17, both of Namibia, Africa, enjoy water sports at Camp Deerhorn near Rhinelander. (Photo by Chantel Balzell/Daily News)

Johannes Halunga, 14, and Aly Shatika, 17, are like brothers. They attend school together, they play together and they arrived at Camp Deerhorn together.

But unlike many campers at Camp Deerhorn, Halunga and Shatika flew in from Namibia, Africa.

“I was very excited, but nervous in the airplane,” Shatika said. “It would have been scary to come alone.”

For both Halunga and Shatika, their trip to Camp Deerhorn was the first time they left their villages in Southern Africa. Arrangements for the two to visit the camp were made by Luke Heinkel, a recent University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate who joined the Peace Corps and is teaching at their boarding school.

“I asked how was your country and said I wanted to be there to see how life is,” Shatika said.

Heinkel, a former camp counselor, wrote letters to the camp directors, asking if two or three students could temporarily stay. Heinkel also raised money to pay for their airfare expenses through online sources and various contacts.

“We thought it was a fantastic idea,” Camp Deerhorn owner and director Susan Broadbridge said.

Halunga and Shatika have stayed at the camp for almost a month now. When they talk about their experiences at Camp Deerhorn, their eyes glisten and they flash a conspicuous grim. From the the food, the activities at the camp and the American way of life, Halunga and Shatika say “it's very different.”

In Namibia, Halunga and Shatika attend a boarding school from first through tenth grade. Classes are from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., afternoon study is from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and evening study is from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. When school is not in session, the two must wake up at 6 a.m. to plant “mahangu” or millet, which is used to make porridge. A typical Nambianmeal includes porridge and bread, and occasionally a small portion of chicken and rice. Sometimes, Halunga says, there is only enough for a spoonful of chicken.

“The food here is delicious, and there's so many different types of food,” Halunga said.

Camp Deerhorn has also exposed Halunga and Shatika to new outdoor activities such as softball, tennis, golfing, swimming, horseback riding, canoeing, hockey, skiing, basketball, riffling and arts and crafts. Back home, they mostly played soccer.

“The United States is a beautiful country,” Shatika said. “It's so green.” Here, they say they can carelessly lie under trees without worrying about wild animals. While the two disagree on whether or not there are cheetas in Namibia, both acknowledge that elephants, warthogs and lions reside there.

Although Halunga and Shatika are enjoying their stay here, they must fly back on July 15. Both say they are not looking forward to leaving, and hope to come back soon.

“Maybe in 2007,” Halunga says.

They will miss the counselors, assistant counselors, team coaches and the friends they made at the camp as well as watching television. “It's very cool here,” Hulanga said. Both are thankful for their opportunity to visit and for the treatment they have received at the camp. “The camp has wonderful people,” Shatika said. “May God bless them all.”

from Rhinelander Daily News July 12, 2006

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