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Making life out of emptiness

by Demilzar C. Gumbo



The Henties Bay Omdel dump site does not only contain garbage but it is a home and business area for 23 year old John Karupi, a Kavango young man who became a victim of the floods that destroyed his future in 2004.

"I have been living in this dump and selling a lot of empty bottles to the people who recycle them. These bottles are weighed per kilogram and  sometimes I make N$1000-2000 a week. That is the money that I buy myself better meals and some clothing," says Karupi.

According to Karupi selling bottles for a living is a very hard task because at times these bottles are not bought and then as a means of survival he eats leftover food from the garbage and for warmth he lights a little fire using his stocked supply of cans and plastic bags.

"I failed my grade 10 in 2003 at Chamangoro Combined School in Rundu, but I wanted to repeat again in order to have a better future and like other young people I wanted to be an engineer or doctor. However in 2004 a flood came and destroyed all my documents including my identity document, birth certificate and school results," he says in fluent English. 

Karupi revealed that his whole family is in Rundu, but the only person he is very close to is his mother and ever since the flood destroyed their house that was still being constructed he decided to look for a job in Windhoek as a general construction worker.

 He worked in Windhoek from 2005-2007 and stayed in Wanaheda. The problem started when he had to show his identification and when the employers noticed he didn’t have documents that were needed so the job came to an end. He was told that the documents could be retrieved in Rundu only and not Windhoek.

"I have thought of going home many times, but I wasn’t ready to acknowledge my failure, and as the eldest child all my siblings look up to me so the only thing I could think of was taking a further step. I decided to be courageous and look for a job in Henties Bay, but things didn’t go as I planned,  months passed but still I was unemployed and living with friends who had problems of their own. So I decided to stay in the dump, and collect bottles," says Karupi.

With a sad expression on his face, Karupi explains that he has lived with a lot of his friends in Henties Bay but these friends are poor and have their own problems to deal with, he did not want to feel like a burden and begging people on the streets for money and food was just too humiliating.

‘’The only help I need right now is being employed, so that I can reapply my certificates and go back home," he says. 

Karupi stated that life in the dump is very hard and unpredictable because you can never be certain of what tomorrow will bring, even though there’s an older man who has settled at the other far corner of the dump  they hardly talk to each other since he is older, but they give each other some respect and both of them have their own sleeping territory.

‘’This world we are living in is lonely and dangerous, so every night before shutting my eyes I ask God to help me and give me that life I have been seeking, the day my mother sees me I would have achieved something in life, my road is full of thorns but there’s nothing that I can do since my destiny is beyond my control," says Karupi.