Meet Zachary Itodo, a Windhoek resident whose unparalleled commitment is serving his community.
Whether it is volunteering at the local police station, actively combating social issues like violence, neglect, abuse and suicide attempts in the neighbourhood, or providing sustenance to underprivileged children in informal settlements, he never ceases to lend a helping hand.
Five years ago, Itodo took a significant step towards making an even greater impact by establishing his non-governmental organisation - Response Action-Based Organisation (RABO).
It all began with assisting the elderly and impoverished children in informal settlements, ensuring they had access to basic necessities.
Over time, his dedication led to him becoming a valued volunteer within the community service department of the Katutura police station, where he witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of social problems on families and communities.
“There is so much happening in our communities. People are seriously suffering out there, and I just want to do my part as a dedicated member of my community and help where I can,” he said.
Recently, New Era paid a visit to Itodo at the Green Leaves Primary School in Windhoek’s Okahandja Park, where he runs a regular soup kitchen to provide meals for destitute children.
At the soup kitchen, hungry children sit patiently, their hands clutching their legs, as they wait for a warm meal. Their eyes reveal both hunger and hope as they eagerly await their daily meal, provided by the compassionate efforts of volunteers.
Beside them, parents and elderly individuals stand in line, their faces reflecting both despair and relief, anxiously waiting for the children to receive their meals, knowing that their own sustenance depends on the same generosity.
Ten-year-old Dibasen Goseb said the last time he had a meal was the morning of the previous day, as if to say he does not know where the next will come from.
“I got bread from Simon (his classmate),” he added.
Simon shared that his mother, who makes a living by selling scrap materials, had informed him that she would buy food once she sells the collected tins.
Their family’s financial situation makes it challenging to have regular meals, and they mostly rely on good Samaritans to feed them.
Their situation portrays the lives of hundreds of other children in informal settlements.
Itodo said this is a poignant reminder of the challenging circumstances faced by vulnerable families, and the vital role that community support plays in their lives.
“These people are hungry…sometimes I wish I can be doing it every day, but we don’t have enough resources for that. The least I can do is feed them on Saturdays when there is food available,” he noted.
After serving meals to the children while New Era was on site, Itodo noticed a woman who appeared vulnerable, holding her baby.
He kindly enquired if she had any nappies, to which she replied, “No.”
In a heartbeat, he hurried to his car, fetched some diapers, and offered to share them with another woman who also seemed to be in need of assistance.
Itodo’s compassion and aid extend beyond just operating a soup kitchen or combating crime.
His vehicle was filled with donations comprising food, sanitary products and clothing items, all meant to be given to those who require help and support.
“These items, I just give randomly to people in the locations that I come across and notice they need them,” he stated.
“We have been able to save lives in terms of suicide prevention; we have been able to intervene in domestic issues; we gave smiles and hope to many people who had lost hope; and we built strong referral points between the community members in need of services and social workers within both the ministries of gender equality, health and also the police”, he elucidated on what makes his group tick.
He has so far assisted 1 686 individuals between 01 April 2021 and 28 February 2022, with the positive impact extending to these individuals’ families and the community in general.
“From the little that we get, we have to squeeze all people’s needs in that budget so that we help as many people as we can,” he continued.
Itodo currently has five volunteers who mainly assist him with the soup kitchen, but runs other programmes himself.
“Most people will only volunteer when there is something in it for them, while there is no passion or compassion for the people they are serving. If I rely on people to help me do my work, I will be held back because when there is no money involved, the work won’t be done,” he said.
Itodo’s efforts have not gone unnoticed.
His organisation was recently given a double-cab bakkie by the Capricorn Foundation to respond quickly to reported cases in all areas of Windhoek (particularly in difficult-to-reach locations), and rescue victims.
“The work that the Response Action-Based Organisation carries out in the community is phenomenal. As Connectors of Positive Change, we are proud of our partnership with RABO, and that we can enable them to carry out their mandate to respond to various incidents such as domestic violence, neglect, abuse, suicide attempts and with a feeding programme. In 2022, the Capricorn Foundation donated a vehicle to the project, and in our previous financial year – 2022/2023 – we committed N$190 000 for the feeding programme and fuel,” said Veripura Muukua, Capricorn Foundation coordinator.
Itodo thus urged public members to report incidents as soon as possible by calling 0853963963 so that the necessary interventions, transportation and referrals can be provided before lives are lost.
“This is not my vehicle; it is for the community, and it will be used properly by the community and the police. It’s about working together to save a child or a vulnerable person,” he reasoned.