The Foundation's and the former Memorial Fund's projects are located in the Omaheke Region, north east of the regional capital, Gobabis. Oshivelo in the north, where Catherine died is the site of a new clinic provided by the Namibian government which was opened in July 2014 and named 'The Catherine Bullen Primary Healthcare Clinic'.
After Catherine's tragic death, approximately £6,000 was donated by family, friends and colleagues in her memory. In her travelog, she had referred to the Earth summit being held in Johannesburg and its theme of fresh water and later her excitement of being in Namibia. It was decided to combine these two themes and support a water project in Namibia.
The Omuhaturua Primary School is situated in Otjimanangombe village in the Omaheke Region in eastern Namibia. The community built the school and its hostel with the assistance of foreign donors in the middle of 1999 to serve the communities of Otjimanangombe, Otjimati, Ovinjuru, Omburo, Okatuuo, Ovituua, Otumbonde, Ombuyasoromana,Otwapehi and Omupanda villages. The school opened its door during 2000 and had an initial enrolment of 143 pupils with six teachers lead by Mr Kavari the school principal. As at October 2015, the school now has 240 pupils and eight teachers. The school is administered by a School Board elected by the community. Some members of the community contribute whatever they can to sustain the hostel which accommodates seventy-five boys and seventy-five girls.
The residents of Otjimanangombe and Omuhaturua Primary School and hostel relied heavily on one borehole for their daily supply of fresh water. The water consumption had increased in the village, resulting in a shortage of water for the school and hostel. With this one borehole being unable to cope with demand, it was not uncommon for the school and hostel to find themselves without water for up to two days at a time. This had become a big problem especially for the hostel and had resulted in a major health hazard for the children.
The school gained permission from the village to refurbish an un-equipped borehole nearby. Unfortunately, they did not have the funds to do this and asked the Komeho Namibia Development Agency to source funding. The British High Commission in Windhoek made contact with The Catherine Bullen Memorial Fund who provided the majority of the funding. Not only would the borehole supply fresh water but would enable the hostel to irrigate a vegetable garden to provide nutritional supplements for their meals.
On 21 April 2004, a commissioning ceremony was held to mark the completion of the project attended by the British Vice Consul, representatives from Komeho and local community officials who made the following comments
"In death, Catherine has given life to the marginalised children of this community, because we believe water is life" - Mrs Nelago Kasuto, Komeho
"Through this generous donation, the British people have fulfilled a very special social responsibility. There will be no more water shortage. No more death, no more illness and no more hunger due to shortage of water" - Namibian Official.
'Catherine' spirit will always be with us. In her memory, today we announce that the school hostel is to be renamed The Omuhaturua Catherine Bullen Hostel' - Mr Steve Kavari, School Principal.
The commissioning of the refurbished borehole in April 2004,
with Mrs Nelago Kasuto (centre)
This plaque commemorated the project.
Imagine that your nearest doctor's surgery is 80 kms away and that if you are injured, ill or about to give birth and your only means of getting there is in the back of a pick-up truck, by donkey cart or to walk. These were the conditions that Linda and Roger Bullen found when they visited the village of Otjimanangombe in October 2005, and the local community voiced vociferously their need for a clinic.
In the previous July, the then Memorial Fund had become a registered charity, and with a band of volunteers, it set about raising funds to provide a medical clinic costing £100,000. With the support of the Mersea Island community, friends, family and those sympathetic to the charity's aims, the Fund had raised £20,000 by June 2007, when they received a massive boost with a grant of £80,000 from the Rooney Foundation administered by the Kent Community Foundation. With the project now fully funded, we were able to proceed and Komeho were asked to start making plans to commence building. Tenders for construction were placed in the Namibian newspapers on 4 October 2007.
Roger and Linda were in Namibia to witness the first bricks laid on Sunday 28 October 2007. In his speech at the time, Roger stated "this is Catherine's legacy to you and the people of Namibia. Catherine's ambition was to be a doctor serving and saving lives of ordinary people, sadly this was not to be, but the clinic will save lives in her name."
Linda Bullen undertaking a token brick laying ceremony.
In early July 2008, Linda and Roger returned to Namibia to open the clinic at Otjimanangombe. On their arrival in Windhoek, they were accompanied by the deputy British High Commissioner and Komeho representatives to meet the First Lady, Penehupifo Pohamba, the wife of President Hifikepunye Pohamba and Dr Richard Kamwi, Minister of Health. Linda and Roger had previously met the First Lady in London in June 2007, so she was fully aware of the circumstances surrounding their visit. She expressed her thanks on behalf of the Namibian people for the provision of the clinic. Dr Kamwi then made a statement which took the meeting by surprise by announcing that provision was to be made in the 2009 budget to build a large new Health Centre staffed by a doctor and five nurses at Oshivelo to replace the small outdated and ill equipped clinic where Catherine died. The Health Centre would be named after Catherine.
On 4 July 2008, having spent the previous night at Gobabis, Linda and Roger made their way to Otjimanangombe, a two and a half hour drive into the bush accompanied by Komeho representatives and a coach carrying teachers and students from the International School in Paris who had expressed an interest to attend. Dressed in bright yellow traditional costumes, especially made by the wife of the locally based Komeho representative with the charity's sunflower motive emblazoned on the front, Linda and Roger were transported to the clinic compound on a cart pulled by two donkeys and escorted by a guard of honour of three horsemen, women from the village dressed in Hereo traditional costume, village elders in military uniform and school children with welcoming placards. On entering the compound the couple were introduced to attending dignitaries including Dr Kamwi, the Minister of Health, Laura Mcleod-Katjirua, Governor of the Omaheke region as well as central and regional government ministers, local councillors, school headmasters and traditional leaders. At the ceremony, various speakers spoke of the urgent needs that the clinic would fulfil and thanked the Catherine Bullen Memorial Fund for its commitment. In his speech, Roger stated, 'this is a very emotional occasion for us. Catherine's ambition was to be a doctor serving the community and saving lives, but sadly this was not to be, but the clinic will save lives in her name'. He concluded in acknowledging the role of the Rooney Foundation whose involvement meant that the construction could be brought forward.
Prior to his speech, Dr Kamwi asked for a minutes silence in memory of Catherine. His speech was followed by the official handover of the clinic to the Namibian Ministry of Health symbolised by the cutting of a ribbon and the unveiling of two plaques to commemorate the occasion. A tour of the facilities, the planting of trees and a buffet lunch completed the day's events.
The clinic has provided employment for two nurses, a cleaner, and a security guard. Also there are two community health workers, one who focuses on prevention and counselling on HIV/Aids and the other on TB with regards to testing and patient follow up.
Left: The clinic consulting room. Right: The delivery suite
Otjimanangombe Primary Healthcare Clinic Post 8 with part of the village in the background.In 2015, it was announced that the Global Fund in conjunction with the Ministry of Health would extend the clinic that the Foundation built and opened on 4 July 2008. Work commenced during the latter part of 2017, and the clinic was handed over to the Ministry of Health on 8 August 2018. The new extension includes additional consulting rooms, a new delivery suite and dedicated rooms for HIV testing and treatment and for TB patients. Also included are a new reception area, security office, new public toilets and two extra accommodation units for the nursing staff. The end result is very impressive and if the original clinic has not been built then none of this would have taken place.
The front of the extended clinic with the original clinic in the background
This part of the building is for diagnosing and treating TB patients
The clinic has made a profound difference to the lives of the people of Otjimanangombe and the surrounding area. Below are quotes from the staff:
"Otjimanangombe Clinic has brought a significant change to the lives of many in this area. Most people in this area now have access to health care services, such as maternal and child health services and treatment for chronic illness. Previously, people had to travel more than 80 kms to the nearest clinic". Grace Marata, Registered Nurse.
"Since the clinic was built in 2008, I have been able to have a job as a cleaner. Before that I was at home". Gertrude Kavaka, cleaner.
"The clinic has improved the health and quality of life of the population in the Otjimanangombe area, through community empowerment in the reduction of TB and TB/HIV transmission, morbidity and mortality". Kahure, COHENA TB field worker.
During the opening of the clinic, the Memorial Fund was made aware of a chronic shortage of ambulances in the Omaheke with an area the size of Wales being served by only three ambulances supplemented by 4x4 pick-ups. With further fundraising a sufficient amount was raised to provide a fourth ambulance and this was handed over on 30 October 2008 to the Namibian Deputy Minister of Health, Madame Petrina Haingura in the capital Windhoek. The ambulance is currently based at the clinic at Epukiro in the Omaheke region and serves the outlying clinics including the one at Otjimanangombe. The completion of the clinic and the provision of the ambulance represented a physical memorial to Catherine and with this in mind the Catherine Bullen Memorial Fund became known as the Catherine Bullen Foundation on 8 November 2008.
Left: The ambulance at Windhoek after the handover. Right: At Otjimanangombe clinic picking up patients.
The San are the indigenous people of the southern African region who have inhabited the land for around 27,000 years. They were the original hunter/gatherers of southern Africa. With the enclosure and fencing of their original habitat they have become a dispossessed people and are widely recognised as the most impoverished disempowered and stigmatised ethnic group in southern Africa.
In October 2008, a visit was made to a San settlement at Voormansput, near the clinic to ask them how the Foundation could improve their quality of life. One of their requests was the provision of goats. Resulting from this, the Foundation launched its "Gift a Goat" Appeal. A donation of £35 would buy a goat and in partnership with Komeho, our ngo partner in Namibia we have donated 82 goats to San families. In 2013, Namibia suffered a drought and Komeho could no longer supply the logistics to support the goats, and therefore this project was brought to a close.
The hostel in 2009 with the girls dormitory on the left and the boys on the right.The hostel has been in use since 2000, and although structurally sound, it badly needed redecorating and re-equipping. A major part of the upgrade was the provision of a kitchen and covered dining area.
The project was split into two phases:
Phase One consisted of internal and external decorating, provision of new bunk beds, provision of metal trunks for personal items and floor tiling.
Phase Two was the construction of the kitchen and covered dining area.
Phase One - Following the attendance of students and teachers of the International School of Paris at the opening ceremony in July 2008 of the Otjimanangombe Primary Healthcare Clinic, the school decided to adopt Omuhaturua Primary School and hostel as the focus for their projects in Namibia for the next three years. Trustees Linda and Roger Bullen travelled to Paris in May 2009 to give presentations to the junior and senior schools on the Foundation's work. Nathalie Pierre, co-ordinating teacher commented 'your visit has had a huge impact on our students. They are so motivated to support your cause. I admire all the work and energy you have, and look forward to helping you make a difference.' Students from the school returned to Otjimanangombe in July 2009 and re-decorated the hostel and provided new bunk beds and mattresses for the boarders.
New bunk beds and mattresses in the re-decorated hostel dormitory.Linda and Roger visited Paris again in December 2009 to give further presentations and to be updated on the schools plans to send another party of students to Omuhaturua Primary School in April 2010 to complete the internal decoration of the hostel and to refurbish a number of classrooms. They made their final visit in 2011 to establish a small library at the school.
Phase Two - This was the construction of a kitchen and covered seated area. Prior to the provision of this facility, the boarders received three meals a day which consisted of maize porridge supplied under the Ministry of Education's School Feeding Programme. This was sometimes supplemented by meat from the village and vegetables from the hostel garden. The meals were cooked on an open fire in large pots housed under an open sided shelter. As well as being open to the elements, domestic animals wandered around the pots. The smoke from the fires was also causing respiratory problems.
Left: Midday meal being served consisting of maize porridge and meat stock.
At meal times the children were served their porridge from the pots into a bowl. They then consumed their meal squatting on the ground under any shade they could find. Afterwards, each pupil washed their bowl in a communal tin bath. This was a very unhealthy situation and did not lend itself to teaching pupils food hygiene and social skills.
The kitchen was constructed using sandbags infilling a wooden framework. This was an environmentally friendly method as it used readily available sand in the dry riverbeds near the village. Women from the village were paid to fill the bags which were then tightly packed in the framework. The whole construction was then lined with chicken wire and a concrete screed was applied inside and out.
Left: Women from the village filling the sandbags.
The outcomes of this project were:
(a) Gas cooking ranges that replaced the previous outside fires providing a much
cleaner and hygienic way of cooking and which also stopped the risk of smoke
inhalation which caused respiratory problems.
This facility was opened on October 2011, one of the teachers commented that 'the smiles on the children's faces says it all.'
"I worked for 21 years for a catering company at airport in Windhoek, before becoming the cook at the hostel. I was very pleased to take up the position which has allowed me to provide a nutritional and varied diet, which would not have been possible before the kitchen was built. Something like this makes a great difference in a rural area. It has meant that we can now cook in an hygienic environment." Reuben, Hostel Kitchen cook.
Eiseb was originally a San bushman settlement and after Namibian independence in 1990 the government encouraged Hereo cattle farmers to return from exile in Botswana and settle there. It is situated in the bush towards the Botswana border, 416 kms north east of Gobabis, the regional capital and is served by a gravel road for the majority of the distance. Facilities are sparse but as well as the school and hostel there is a medical clinic staffed by one nurse.
As with the majority of primary schools in the Omaheke, the Eiseb Primary School Hostel was constructed by the community a number of years ago. For sometime, they have been unable to sustain it. The Regional Ministry of Education have committed to provide a subsidy on a per pupil basis to assist with running costs but insufficient to finance capital projects.
Trustees from the Catherine Bullen Foundation visited the school and hostel in 2012 and witnessed severe overcrowding in both the girl's and boy's dormitories. There were no showers and a limited number of pit latrines. The situation has since been exacerbated by the increased school attendance due to the government making primary education free from January 2013.
The Trustees also saw the lack of facilities for the preparation, cooking and the consumption of meals. Food was being cooked in pots on open fires with the children consuming their meals sitting on the ground which was far from hygienic.
After discussions with the school and hostel board, the following project was agreed.
Phase 1 - The construction of a third dormitory including toilets and showers.
This photo shows the chronic overcrowding in the girl's dormitory.
Construction commenced in mid-February 2014 and was scheduled to complete by end of March 2014 excluding the provision of services. On 4 March 2014, together with representatives of the Ministry of Works from Gobabis, trustees from the Catherine Bullen Foundation visited Eiseb Hostel to inspect the progress on the construction of the dormitory which was well on the way to completion. On 25 March 2014, the Foundation Trustees again visited Eiseb to inspect its dormitory which was finished except for the final connection to Nambian German Special Initiative's septic tank and the provision of water.
The provision of water was undertaken by Komeho Namibia Development Agency, the Foundation's ngo partner in Namibia who arranged for quotations to be obtained and a contractor appointed to connect to the borehole and erect a stand for the tank. To keep the costs down, the community dug the trench for the pipe from the borehole to the water tank stand which was approx 150 metres in length. The installation was completed in June and was inspected by the Foundation Trustees in July 2014. Bunk beds and mattresses were then provided by the Namibian German Special Initiative. The dormitory was officially opened 14 October 2015.
Left: shower and wash area. Centre: toilet. Right: interior view. Below: external view.
The completed dormitory opened in October 2015.
The construction of a kitchen for the preparation and cooking of food and a secure covered area with tables and chairs for the consumption of meals.
The need for kitchen and covered dining area was highlighted to the Foundation Trustees by the villagers during a visit in March 2011, when they witnessed the unhygienic conditions that the hostel workers and children were experiencing during the preparation and consumption of food. The main construction is a sectional steel portal building providing the covered area. At one end, there is a brick built kitchen and a secure store for the gas cylinders. There is currently no mains electricity supply, but the building is equipped with lights and sockets as a supply is scheduled for the latter part of 2017. Water is supplied from a communal borehole and sewage is piped into a septic tank constructed by the Namibian German Special Initiative. Construction commenced in October 2015 and by the end of the year the framework for the steel structure was in place. During January 2016, the roof was completed and when Linda and Roger went to inspect the building in April 2016, they found the kitchen was beginning to take shape.
On 26 October 2016, the kitchen and dining area was formally opened by Linda and Roger in a joint opening with the Namibia German Special Initiative Programme (NGSIP). For its part, the NGSIP built and equipped two 16 bed hostels for boys and girls, provided a toilet block and renovated two existing 40 bed dormitories adding bathrooms and showers. The opening ceremony was also attended by Mr Pijoo Nganate, special adviser to the Governor of the Omaheke Region, Mr Victor MKgone, Deputy Director of Education for the Omaheke Region, Her Excellency, The British High Commissioner, Mrs Jo Lomas, Mr Ned Sibeye, Deputy Chief, National Development Advice, National Planning Commission, Dr Namu Musulwe and representatives of the NGSIP. Dr Musulwe spoke of the long period of co-operation between the NGSIP and the Foundation, while Mr Sibyea emphasised the need to encourage publication/private partnerships on projects such as this. In her speech, Her Excellency Mrs Jo Lomas expressed her excitement about this joint initiative saying 'that educational standards needed to improve if increased economic growth is to be realised in Namibia. However, there are great challenges to doing that, and coming to Eiseb highlights the difficulties of catering for children in remote areas. The facilities here today, are a small contribution to that challenge in having decent surroundings, nutrition, hygiene and care essential to helping children learn. Speaking on behalf of the Catherine Bullen Foundation, Roger said 'the new kitchen and dining area will provide a hygienic and safe environment for the preparation and consumption of meals. It will also mean that the staff will no longer have to work with open fires which are the cause of respiratory problems due to the inhalation of smoke'. He urged the pupils and community to ensure that the buildings are kept in good condition as they will be visiting every six months to carry out an inspection and hoped that everything would be working and in place.
Mr Ned Sibeya from the Office of the President after cutting the ribbon to open the kitchen with Linda and Roger. On the right is Dr Namu Musulwe of NGSIP.
The kitchen is at the far end with the rest of the building accommodating the covered dining area to cater for 300 children.
Some of the children had been asked to write a small piece on the history of the school and hostel which are featured below.
Eiseb Primary School was established in 1997. The former Aminius Regional Councillor Honourable Erwin Uangula was the first principal of the school. During his period there was no hostel. Learners were walking from their homes to the school.
Fortune Andrias, Grade 5B
In the year 1998, Mr GT Tjizoo became the principal after Mr E. Uangula returned to Aminius. There were only 6 teachers and 258 learners enrolled and 2 hostel blocks with 2 rooms were built. These remained un-used up to 2007 because of lack of hostel materials.
Nguseta Korupanda, Grade 7
In 2007, Mr A.J. Hange was appointed principal and he came with an idea of opening the hostel for learners. During his period he requested matresses, cooking pots and other necessary equipments and materials.
Barnabas Katjiteo, Grade 7A
It was so hard for the learners. The requested beds and mattresses were not enough for the learners. We were feeling so bad. Some of the learners were sleeping right on the floor even in the winter time. Our hostel workers were cooking in the open air using fire. Fire wood was the source of energy for cooking and was fetched from far with a donkey cart. For bathing, learners were using buckets. It was so very harsh. We were over crowded in those two rooms.
Kopekuma Hange, Grade 7
Today we achieved a lot of developments through Catherine Bullen Foundation and other Foundations. Although there are still some pressing needs we are so very happy and we are feeling so glad for what we got. We have new beds and mattresses, flushing toilets, modern bathrooms and new dormitories. A well equipped kitchen. Our workers are no more cooking outside using fire. We are using gas stoves.
Vehupa Hengari, Grade 6A
Thank you Catherine Bullen Foundation for the development that you brought to our hostel. We are so very happy, we will not forget you and we will look forward for other developments that you will bring to our hostel in future. Thank you very much.
Frans Isaak, Grade 5A
The children of Eiseb Primary School Hostel enjoying their lunch.
In February 2017, Roger and Linda returned to the Eiseb Primary School Hostel where they witnessed the kitchen and dining area in use. Roger commented, "it was very emotional for us to see this project in action, with well over 300 children seated at tables eating a nutritious meal that had been cooked in the kitchen in hygienic conditions".
It was with smiles of delight that the learners at the Omuhaturua Primary School Hostel witnessed the Catherine Bullen Foundation handover the project at the Hostel in April 2018. Construction started in the latter part of 2017 and consists of two blocks of flush toilets, one for the boys and the other for the girls in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No 6 on sanitation. In addition to this, because of the increase in the number of children in the hostel which had resulted in overcrowding, the Foundation converted a large storeroom into another dormitory which alleviated the situation. Finally, the Foundation donated 130 mattresses to ensure that the children in the hostel are comfortable and get a good nights sleep.
The new dormitory with boys flush toilets to the left and the girls to the right
The boys in their new dormitory
The girls in their part of the new dormitory
In March 2017, Steve Kavari, the Principal of Omuhaturua Primary School discussed with the Foundation whether it would be possible to provide a school hall. All school assemblies and large meetings are held outside and are subject to the vagaries of the weather especially during the rainy season. It was suggested that this should be more than just a school hall in that it should be also an activities and recreational hall for the hostel where the children could play indoor netball, volley ball and basketball etc especially as it gets dark quite early and this would be somewhere for the children to go. It could also be used by the local community and could be a venue for an indoor market where local produce could be sold providing income.
The digging of the foundation commenced in March 2019 and it is hoped that the hall will be completed in the latter part of 2020.
Linda Bullen and the builder, Riaan Potgieter digging the first spadefull for the hall's foundations
The provision of a borehole for Eiseb Primary School, the Hostel and the State Clinic
The need for a borehole was first highlighted to the Foundation Trustees by the school board during a visit in October 2016. Since then the situation has got worse and it has been exacerbated by the current drought caused by the lack of rainfall during the rainy season in the last few years. In May 2019, the Namibian Government announced a State of Emergency in response to the drought.
Currently, Eiseb Primary School and Hostel receive their water from a single borehole which is shared with the community. This leads to conflict on a regular basis as the borehole does not have sufficient capacity to serve both the school and the community. There is also the problem with the stationary diesel engine which runs the pump which is prone to breakdowns resulting in neither party getting any water. When the school requires water it has to supply the diesel for the engine to pump. There are times that this is not available due to logistical problems.
The Foundation's project is to drill and equip a borehole for the sole use of the school, the hostel and the state clinic to provide an uninterrupted supply of fresh water. This will also allow the school to irrigate the school garden to provide vegetables for the hostel kitchen.
The borehole will be environmentally friendly with the water being pumped using solar power and the project will also take the pressure off the community borehole. Quotations are currently being sought and it is planned that drilling will take place in 2021.
This project is fully funded, thanks to a large donation from the friends of John Friend who sadly died from a heart attack near Seserim in the Namib Desert while on holiday in Namibia, and an equally large grant from Suni E.V. the Foundation's partner charity in Germany.
The provision of 4x4 ambulance for Otjimanangombe Primary Healthcare Clinic
In 2008, the Foundation donated a state of the art ambulance to the Omaheke Regional Health Ministry and this was based at Epukiro Clinic some 60 kms from Otjimanangombe. Now twelve years later it is coming to the end of its operational life not being helped by recently being in collision with a cow. So with a critical shortage of 'proper' ambulances in the region, the Foundation has decided to provide another ambulance to be based this time at the recently extended Otjimanangombe Primary Healthcare Clinic. This is the project that we are currently fundraising for and donations are welcome to help finance this project and can be made on line on this website through 'Virginmoneygiving' which attracts Gift Aid and Paypal.
The type of ambulance the Foundation plan to provide for the clinic
The Catherine Bullen Foundation
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