The footprints of Opperman

By By: Jemima Beukes
August 2011
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The Cambridge dictionary defines a heroine as a person who is admired for having done something very brave or something great.

Christina Swartz Opperman is one person undoubtedly Namibians will mark off as a heroine, their justification grounded in the work she does for the community.

It is unfortunate that most people think to be a hero one must have fought in the liberation struggle but in our midst, there many unsung heroes who have made enviable accomplishments but not in the war front or because of that person’s political standing.

Opperman has inspired people by the everyday sacrifices she makes. In 2003, she launched the Christina Swartz Opperman Trust to take care and improve the lives of AIDS orphans and vulnerable children in Namibia after she was crowned Namibia Economist Business woman of the Year in 2002.

After her tenure as Business Woman of the Year expired, she could not bear to abandon the project.

“So many children depended on us and so many homes looked up to us for assistance. I just could not find it in my heart to close it off. So, I made it part of my life I have created an expectation and should, therefore, live up to my promise. There are hundreds of households on our waiting list so many people are in need, how can I end it?”

Born in Kimberly, South Africa, in April 1958, she later moved to Namibia after she got married to married to Theo Opperman the current Executive Director of Methealth Namibia. Not only is Opperman compassionate, but scored a first in 1978, when she became the female partner (NON-Audit) at PriceWaterHouseCoopers in 2001.

Opperman derives her inspiration from Nelson Mandela. “Madiba demonstrated that forgiveness and love for your fellow man can change a nation,” she says.

She believes that people who have must show empathy to those that do have to uplift and encourage them. “I have been blessed so abundantly in my life. I have a wonderful husband and a delightful daughter. Charity work and my dedication to orphans and vulnerable children is my way of giving back to my community.”

The Christina Swartz Opperman Children’s Trust continues its work in the Namibian community with the help of sponsorships and generous donations from the corporate world. The organisation’s Board of Trustees consists of prominent Namibian business people.

Says Christina: “I am passionate about the work I do and it teaches me to value the time I spend with my family”.

The mother of one teenage daughter says she has a very strong love for children. It was this love that motivated her to start an organisation that takes care of vulnerable children.

“I want to help these children; they are not in these situations because of their own doing. I do it all out of love and because God placed them in my heart.”

The projects that benefit mainly from the work of Christina Swartz Opperman are Family Hope Sanctuary, Mother’s Voice Grassroots and HIV/AIDS Care, Baby Haven and Family Elliott. While the head office of the Christina Swartz Opperman Children’s Trust is in Windhoek, the work and activities spearheaded under this Trust is spread throughout the country and concentrate particularly on the rural and underprivileged communities.

Opperman was elected as Councillor for the ruling Swapo Party in 2010.She was also appointed as the Chairperson of the City’s Healthy City Steering Committee in 2011 and serves on the Board of the Namibia Red Cross society amongst others.

According to findings of the 2006-07 Namibia Demographic and Health Survey, 28 percent of Namibian children under the age of 18 are orphans and or are considered vulnerable. One in 10 children is living with at least one sick adult.

Statistics by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare show that 128 213 of these OVC’s are on social grants. A report from the Ministry also indicates that 16 645 of these OVC’s are under foster care while the 111 568 receive maintenance grants while staying with only one parent or a caretaker.

Opperman is an inspirational figure who sees the need in her society and acts on it. Not for any recognition or for any monetary reward, undoubtedly mirroring a heroic and a shining example of leadership and stewardship.

Opperman, an Industrial Psychologist by profession, spent days before the birth of the Christina Swartz Opperman Children’s Trust managing the Christina Opperman Holdings, which is a Human Resources development consultancy. PF