Children are known to imitate their elders’, particularly their parents’ behaviour and for 67-year-old Paulina Hangara who founded the Hangara Day Care Centre, this is especially true.
It began many years before independence at the Old Location where her home would always be filled with people - her father would open his house to the downtrodden and those without anywhere else to go.
Whenever he would buy a sack of mealie-meal for the house, Hangara remembers it not lasting as expected, because it would be shared amongst so many mouths.
That spirit of hospitality remained with her years later, even when she moved to Herero Location.
She once saw a boy carrying pieces of meat from the Single Quarters’ kapana, which is just across her house.
After calling the boy over, she noticed the meat was dirty and rotten and after further inquiry, she found out he had been starving. She invited him for lunch and that was affectively the launch of her kindness.
“A while after that, I had a seven-month miscarriage. Fortunately, I found a baby dropped by my door. It was such a surprise but I decided to take the child in,” narrates Hangara who eventually legally adopted the boy and named him Ervin Hangara.
Today, Ervin is a small-time IT specialist who repairs cell phones and laptops in Rehoboth.
Soon after her good deed, word began to spread in the community.
“They would say, ‘if you don’t want your baby anymore, don’t dump it in the bin, just take it to Mama Hangara’,” she chuckles.
And being who she was, Mama Hangara would not turn any away. Before long, she had a house full of abandoned children, just like in the home in which she had grown up.
But things have not always run smoothly for the multilingual, elderly guardian.
On 19 May 2009, a fire ignited her home and to date, she is still unsure what could have caused it.
“I was in the sitting room when I heard stones being thrown on my roof. When I went to the window, my neighbours were yelling, asking me to open the gate for them so they could help me save my home. I saw smoke and fire and was quite shocked,” recounts Hangara, adding, she was so glad most of the children were away on holiday when the incident occurred.
The children’s clothes were, however, burnt to ashes, as it happened before a new school term.
Mama Hangara would be forced to sell most of her furniture and a Toyota bakkie she had saved up for, to buy school uniforms and stationary for the kids, anew.
“I had been saving up for the bakkie for years, selling fat cakes and other items in the neighbourhood and all that went to waste”.
Various companies would come to her aid, however, including Telecom Namibia, Coca Cola, Metropolitan and several local churches.
“But my boy, Ervin, rebuilt the place all on his own,” she enthuses.
Using skills acquired during childhood, Ervin managed to put a roof back over the children’s heads. Today, the home still stands, five years on.
Hangara is a busy woman. She had just returned from taking the younger children to the hospital for polio immunisation and other check-ups when this reporter met with her.
She also had to reschedule her initial meeting with the reporter, as she was busy washing all 22 children’s clothes, with the help of the older ones.
Also being a collector of Old Location paraphernalia, she has in her possession a collection of items from that era, including two old cameras. “I do it to preserve an era in which we were more united than we are today,” she says.
Hangara’s daughter, Isabella, mimics her mother’s character and thus plans to open a street kids’ home in Gobabis where she works as a matron.