Onesmus “Jnr Kannase” H. Shoombe was born in 1983 in Okahala village in northern Namibia. He grew up with his parents and four sisters and attributes much of who he is today, in terms of his character, values, and lessons learned to his parents’ influence. As a youngster he found it a challenge to walk three kilometres (1.86 miles) to school each morning and to remain in the noisy classroom throughout the day. He missed his family and having three meals a day, but enjoyed learning to read and write.
In 1998, Mr. Shoombe began his studies at Ruacana Vocational Secondary School, one of the top 10 Secondary Schools in Namibia. Unlike his elementary school, Mr. Shoombe very much enjoyed the energy and excitement of Ruacana, and even the school’s mountainous physical setting. He started to have high expectations for himself. He earned the respect of his fellow students and began to believe that he could have a bright future.
Life became more difficult once again after the completion of secondary school, because Mr. Shoombe’s college entrance exam scores were not in line with his enthusiasm for obtaining additional education. He began to feel that he was not only letting himself down, but also those in his community that expected more of him.
Mr. Shoombe began to volunteer with Catholic AIDS Action. Through the organization Mr. Shoombe began a community gardening project that provided nutritious vegetables to highly vulnerable children. Beyond providing community members with health foods, Mr. Shoombe offered training in gardening, HIV awareness, and lifestyle diseases. His aim was to support highly vulnerable individuals that often not only had notable health concerns, but also lacked regular sources of income despite being the head of their households.
In addition to the community development work through the gardening initiative, Mr. Shoombe helped to form soccer and netball teams for local youths. (Netball is like basketball, but the ball is carried not bounced on the field.) His goal was to offer young people healthy activities that might help them to avoid more destructive ones, such as abusing alcohol, smoking, or engaging in intimate relations that could lead to teen pregnancies and teen fatherhood. Participation in team sports can have additional benefits, such as improved self-confidence, better performance in school, and better social skills.
Mr. Shoombe attended the University of Namibia for a Diploma in HIV and AIDS Management Counseling. He completed a certificate for working with Children, Families, and Communities Affected by HIV and AIDS, Conflict, Poverty and Displacement at the University of Kwazulu-Natal-South Africa. He worked in the non-governmental sector for 10 years before being accepted into the prestigious Mandela Washington Fellows program.
In 2012, he founded Sottle Investments which offers microfinance loans to families in the Outapi District that would like to make home improvements using bricks as opposed to by cutting down trees. In 2015, Mr. Shoombe was accepted into the highly competitive Mandela Washington Fellows program for Young African Leaders, which is the flagship program of President Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking. As a 2015 Fellow, Mr. Shoombe completed a six-week program in Civic Leadership with 24 other Fellows from across the continent at Arizona State University that addressed issues such as transparency in governance, communities needing to feel ownership to invest in their futures, and inclusive growth.
The Mandela Washington Fellows program was life altering. Mr. Shoombe is using what he learned about empowering individuals and giving them the skills they need to create positive changes in their lives and communities at the non-profit organization for which he works, Healthworks Business Coalition, a leading wellness service provider in Namibia. Healthworks Business Coalition engages the private sector in the national response to HIV and AIDS. The organization provides wellness screening, workplace training, and other services.
Mr. Shoombe is currently completing a novel, tentatively titled A Flood of Battles, that encourages youths to come out of their comfort zones and put their talents to use. The book is meant to be humorous and inspirational and should be released in December in Outapi town, Namibia.
Based on the literature on international development and personal success, why has Mr. Onesmus “Jnr Kannase” H. Shoombe been so successful in his undertakings?
Some key characteristics come to mind:
Mr. Shoombe believes that you never know what you are capable of until you take that step and go for it. He CHALLENGES HIMSELF to be a ROLE MODEL and to INSPIRE OTHERS to reach their full potential.
Mr. Shoombe believes in today’s youths. He understands the importance of being a good leader and that this may include stepping aside to let another person take center stage. Strong COLLABORATION makes for strong communities.