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Charlotte Shigwedha: A warm heart in Mondesa

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Namibia is a fairly new destination for Africa travellers, yet the wide expanses of desert, dunes and vlei beckon more travellers each year. What is mostly hidden in the brochures behind the well known landmarks and landscapes of this stark and awesome ancient land – is Namibia’s people.

 

On Namibia’s central coast is the town of Swakopmund, a town of Germanic architecture, varied history and rich pastries. Swakopmund is a popular travellers’ destination that today bills itself as the adventure capital of Namibia. Usually – self-drive tour itineraries would recommend a two night stay and suggest activities such as sand-boarding, day trips to Cape Cross and Walvis Bay, scenic flights up the Skeleton Coast or a day drive out to the desert moonscape to see the ancient welwistchia plants. But there is more to Swakopmund than meets the eye; or that the tourist brochures tend to tell.

 

Outside of Swakopmund is the township of Mondesa, the Germanic is left behind and Mondesa shows the true nature of Namibia – it is Africa. Charlotte Shigwedha, grew up in Mondesa and her family still live there. In 2002 at 25 years of age, Charlotte founded the Mondesa Township Tours as a tourism venture, the first person from Mondesa to start a tourism based business.

 

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Charlotte Shigwedha

 

Charlotte was working as a nanny and through the encouragement of her employers she entered the 2002 Namibia Young Entrepreneurs Competition with her concept of starting Township Tours. With assistance of her employer Charlotte wrote up a business plan for the township tour concept and Charlottes’ entry was chosen from over 300 as one of three finalists in the competition. Since then Charlotte or her guides have hosted/guided 1300 guests to experience her unique township tour.

 

Mondesa Township Tours (MTT) is all about people. Charlotte opens doors for people who are keen to experience a new culture and she believes that communication and experience is the basis for understanding and learning. MTT brings people of different backgrounds together and this assists individuals to build international understanding on a local level.

 

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Meme Angelika - Herero lady visited by Charlotte's tour

 

Mondesa Township was established in the early 1950's to provide housing for Owambo, Damara and Herero people working in Swakopmund. Charlotte designed the tour to impart a real sense of the life in township, moving through the different areas inhabited by Owambo, Damara and Herero. MTT presents a thorough history of Namibia and the daily life, culture and customs of the women and men who live in Mondesa. The basic idea of the tour is to involve the people of the township and local community to provide opportunities, especially for women, to grow and to become more independent.

 

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Charlotte with family

 

With a great deal of heart, huge enthusiasm and her charming nature, Charlotte makes a difference to people’s lives. Guests who joined the township tours as well as locals profit from her exceptional work, 60% of the income generated by Charlotte’s tours goes into the community,whether as wages for the guides, to the people who participate by opening their homes and sharing their culture, to the drivers who take the guests out to the township and to local community initiatives such as the local kindergartens Mercy Kindergarten, Lucky Kindergarten, Top Kids Kindergarten and Ekwathathano Kindergarten, Tears Of Hope Orphan’s Home, soup kitchens and “The Positive But Confident Mondesa Women” a local support group of women living with HIV/AIDS.

 

Lucky's kindergarten has 25 children from the poorest area in the shanty towns. Most of the children at this kindergarten come to school hungry as their parents don't work. The kindergarten doesn't receive any funding from the Government. The parents that can afford to, pay about N$20 (US$3 or EU$2) per month. This kindergarten benefits from guests direct donations and Mondesa Township Tours allowance when the tour visits there. There are 5 kindergartens in the Shanty Towns and MTT visits 3 of them regularly as part of the tour, but randomly so that each kindergarten can benefit from this generosity.

 

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Lucky's Kindergarten

 

In a township where poverty, unemployment and low income families live (domestic workers earn between N$50 (US$7 – EU$5 ) to 300N$ (US$42 - EU$32 ) per month and some people are working at the main rubbish dump for as little as N$1 (US$0.14c – EU$0.10) per day. Charlottes work, passion for her community and involvement in raising self-esteem, employment opportunities and international relationships between the Mondesa Township community and travellers provides opportunities for growth, friendship, support and understanding between our cultures.

 

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Mondesa shack

 

In addition to involving people who live in Mondesa as part of the tour Charlotte is contributing to the education and qualification of the guides who work with MTT with the assistance of The Namibia Community Based Tourism Association (Nacotba), of which MTT is a member. All guides are encouraged and supported by Charlotte to qualify in guiding from Namibian Academy for Tourism and Hospitality (NATH). One of MTT’s guides, Samme recently qualified Level 2 Guiding. To date, Charlotte has contributed to the training of 7 young people, 2 of whom are working permanently for MTT and 2 others are freelancing with other tourism companies in Namibia. A number of the MTT guides are multi-lingual, speaking either German, French or English as well as several local languages.

 

Charlotte's vision is also to create the SHIGWEDHA YOUTH FUND to support projects like the kindergartens, youth activities and in the future to build a community centre for young people. At the moment though, the outlays made and included for the running of the tours do not make this possible. But from little things, big things grow – and Charlotte has the energy, vision and determination with the help of international friends to make this a reality in the future.

 

Charlotte can be contacted by email here:

township@mweb.com.na

 

Mondesa Township Tours website is here:

http://www.mondesatownshiptours.com/

 

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Charlotte in Germany at a recent trade travel expo, dressed in traditional women's Herero clothing

 

Update 30 July 2007

 

Charlotte's News - Receiving the 2007 Jet Award is here:

Charlotte's News

 

To visit Charlotte's Mondesa Township Tours website click here:

 

http://www.mondesatownshiptours.com/

 

Article written by Jude Price, photos supplied by Charlotte Shigwheda

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It is with very heavy hearts that we update Charlotte's story today.

 

On Monday 31 August, one month after her wedding day to Phillip Angula - Charlotte was killed in a car crash near Oshikutu in the north of Namibia.

 

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Her warm heart and bright bubbly spirit has been at the centre of Mondesa township and more in the DRC (Democratic Resettlement Community) for many years.

 

Her memorial service was held at her new home in Jabulani on Saturday 5 September 2009.

 

Kaye and I met and shared three wonderful days with Charlotte and her children Nambo, Callie and Titus, her sisters Sam and Estella and her mother Sophie this time last year.

 

Charlotte was a vibrant, impassioned, organised woman who loved her community deeply and felt the responsibility of her role strongly. It is too sad that Charlotte has passed and our deep sympathy goes to Phillip and all her family at this difficult time.

 

A news report of the accident is here: The Namibian Online: Award-winning entrepenuer killed in car crash

 

Photographs from our visit with Charlotte in September 2008 are here: Picasa Web Album - Charlotte, Mondesa September 2008

 

During our friendship we sent to her this quotation by Nkosi Johnson.

"Do all you can, with what you have, in the time you have, in the place you are".

Charlotte embraced this with great enthusiasm, printed it out and had it on her Mondesa Township Tours office wall - as it really did encapsulate her life philosophy.

 

Charlotte's Township Tours will continue, her husband Phillip had recently joined her enterprise and will keep her work and heart alive in Swakopmund.

 

Vale Charlotte.

 

Jude Price and Kaye Brown

Semaphore

Australia

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Charlotte and I met here on Safaritalk 2 years ago and forged a friendship that spanned half the world. We shared our joys and sorrows; our pictures; our families; and lots of laughter and "girlie" stuff. Rarely a week passed without an email, a post on each other's Facebook, an sms or online chat with the webcam. Charlotte had a knack for knowing when I was in need of a friend.

 

A special woman is lost to the world. I miss her.

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This is very tragic news, not only for her close family and friends, but for those which her initiatives supported. This forward thinking, hard working woman will be sorely missed. My thoughts are with her. Matt

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I'm so sorry to read this very very sad news. Clearly Charlotte touched so many, not only in her own community but across the world. My deepest condolences to her family and her friends.

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I just came across this youtube video in memory of Charlotte and wanted to share it with the ST folk: She was one out of the box and I miss her terribly.

 

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Charlotte and I met here on Safaritalk 2 years ago and forged a friendship that spanned half the world. We shared our joys and sorrows; our pictures; our families; and lots of laughter and "girlie" stuff. Rarely a week passed without an email, a post on each other's Facebook, an sms or online chat with the webcam. Charlotte had a knack for knowing when I was in need of a friend.

 

A special woman is lost to the world. I miss her.

My mother is the best

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My mother knew how to set that good first impresion I miss her :(

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Welcome to Safaritalk: indeed your mother was an inspirational person. Glad to have you hear, please do tell us more about yourself.

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My Name Titus Shigwedha,I am 18 years of Age the first born of Charlotte Shigwedha ,I have lived without her for five years now .I just finished Matric and raising to funds for University. Mondesa Township Tours is now under the Management of Phillip Angula who took over after the death of Charlotte and left her kids behind to live with their Grandparents....

 

Like my mother I have to start from scretch......

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It must be a battle, to continue without your mother. Congratulations on achieving your Matric.

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