Surviving on empty cans

Ethano: Charlotte Nambandja TAYA NYANYULA OONDOOHA … Methano ndika otamu monika Alfred Gereseb (kolumoho) ta kwathelwa kuhekulu Immanuel Gereseb (kolumoho) okunyanyula oondooha ndhoka ha kongo opo a ka landithe kehala lyiikwatenda, opo i imonene shomboloto.

While many unemployed Namibians are at home, waiting for better days, Alfred Gereseb (26), whose leg was amputated two years ago, is living proof that disability does not mean inability.

Living at Otjomuise’s 8ste Laan area, he wakes up in the early hours of the morning to start with his routine of collecting empty cans for resale.

“I wake up at 04h00 and go to business areas or homes in the suburbs to look for recyclable cans when the municipality empties refuse bins,” he says.

Gereseb says losing his leg doesn’t make him a victim.

“I have to continue trying to make a dollar out of 15 cents to make ends meet.”

He says he lost his leg after he was hit by a vehicle six years ago in a hit-and-run incident at Okahandja, where he grew up.

“Both my parents died and I live with my grandparents. At least I have a room with proper zinc and I’m glad to be off the streets, where I used to live and sleep under bridges” he says.

Gereseb says as long as he has a roof over his head, food on his table and clean clothes, he has nothing to complain about.

He is grateful for the gift of life, he says.

“I decided to move to Windhoek due to the fear of being mocked and questioned about how I lost my leg by those who knew me well before,” he says.

The father of one says he cannot always afford to maintain his child, who lives with his mother at a farm near Okahandja.

“It saddens me not to be a father, man enough to provide for my child. I feel like I have failed the family I have created,” he says.

Gereseb was spotted a week ago with a plastic bag full of recyclable cans, catching a lift with a motorist.

He says he was on his way home from Pionierspark where he was collecting empty cans.

While busy doing his laundry, he says nothing will stop him from continuing his efforts in the pursuit to take care of his family.

“I don’t make a lot of money from the recyclables, but that N$50 or N$100 makes a huge difference, compared to having nothing at all,” Gereseb says.

He says he couldn’t complete his formal education due to unpaid school fees.

“I have accepted my condition, knowing that if I don’t do anything for myself, nobody will.”

Gereseb says he has festive season plans.

“I just hope to collect as much scrap as possible to get some money and have a nutritious meal,” he says.

Gereseb’s grandmother, Martha Thirases (62), says he is “a good child”, who has provided for her even before he lost his leg.

His grandfather, Immanuel Gereseb (66), says he helps his grandson to crush the cans at home before selling them.

Gereseb’s neighbour, Geraldine Salon (23), says: “ I have known him for over a year, and I can attest that he is a very hardworking and strong man.

“Despite his condition, he still does everything by himself. I witnessed this when he built his room by himself,” she says.

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