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From the Heart of Texas to the Heart of Africa


Can one individual really make a difference?

After meeting with Mel Chester, an 82 year old American returning from South Africa, the answer is “absolutely."

Feeding the Children -The Mondessa Project- Namibia, South AfricaFeeding the Children -The Mondessa Project- Namibia, South AfricaMel looks at you with a big smile and full of excitement, he says "It's not about Mel Chester but about knowing that anyone can reach out and offer a hand to someone. It’s about living with passion, commitment, dedication and caring for others who are less fortunate than we are.”

Feeding the Children -The Mondessa Project- Namibia, South AfricaFeeding the Children -The Mondessa Project- Namibia, South AfricaIt seems that people have no idea how much they may be able contribute to someone’s confidence and success by making a difference around them. It is a matter of priorities, choosing between helping yourself or making sure that people around you have what they need to survive. That is exactly what Mel has done for the last 18 years in Namibia; a country located North West of South Africa with about 2 million people who speak English and where every driver on the road (they drive on the left side of the road) will make you nervous. Once Mel Chester arrived in Namibia and saw the need for his services, he totally forgot his comfortable American life to focus on the people in the heart of Africa.

Feeding the Children -The Mondessa Project- Namibia, South AfricaFeeding the Children -The Mondessa Project- Namibia, South AfricaMel recalls, "The first time I saw Salmon, he was standing barefoot outside the Pick n' Pay store, looking pretty sad. I could see hunger and pain all over his face." Salmon asked for money but instead of receiving a couple of coins he was offered a little job. Mel asked him to carry his shopping bags to his car then he was rewarded with bread plus a few motivational words such as "if you try to help yourself, people will help you." This was Salmon's first life lesson.

Feeding the Children -The Mondessa Project- Namibia, South AfricaFeeding the Children -The Mondessa Project- Namibia, South AfricaSalmon Nakale, an orphan who always ran barefoot and lived with his youngest brother, with no food on the table and no money to pay the house bills, was offered powerful advice from Chester: "Do your best at school and take up sports." Young Salmon understood well, and before he knew it, was selected as a member of the National team representing Namibia in 1998 and was the 5,000 meter Namibian Junior Champion of South Africa, Mauritius and Zimbabwe. Salmon made his achievements possible by his determination, faith and courage to take a chance when given the opportunity.

Feeding the Children -The Mondessa Project- Namibia, South AfricaFeeding the Children -The Mondessa Project- Namibia, South AfricaSalmon took this opportunity to act, and didn't turn away from Mel Chester's advice. Unlike many of the children his age, Salmon's not ignoring Mel’s advice pulled him out of a cycle of poverty and despair, a cycle which most of the children in that environment endured. Mel taught this young fellow what responsibility is all about. He taught him to show great respect to others while taking personal initiative and not fearing the outcome. Salmon was one of many lives impacted by Mel’s devotion and love for humanity.

Feeding the Children -The Mondessa Project- Namibia, South AfricaFeeding the Children -The Mondessa Project- Namibia, South AfricaHumanaid, formerly "The Mondessa Project" or simply “the Soup Kitchen”, was run by Mel Chester who changed the life of many while helping the less fortunate. The Soup Kitchen provided a hot nutritious meal once a week to the elderly and about 500 children every weekend. “This was a busy place and a real paradise for hundreds of people," says Chester.

Mel Chester, Founder of Humanaid, formerly -The Mondessa Project- Namibia, South AfricaMel Chester, Founder of Humanaid, formerly -The Mondessa Project- Namibia, South AfricaMel grew up in Texas and also lived in California for many years before moving to South Africa. He is a member of the Baha’i Faith and had been invited to visit Africa by his friend, Sandra Tjitendero whose husband, Dr. Mose Penaani Tjitendero was the first Speaker of Parliament in Namibia for 15 years. Dr. Tjitendero and his wife Sandra went into exile in 1964 to return to Namibia after its independence from South Africa on 21 March 1990. In America, Dr Tjitendero received his Masters in History from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, followed by a doctorate in education. He passed away in Windhoek, S. W. Africa in 2006 and was remembered as the vision and inspiration for many South Africans while playing a great role in community building making himself a big difference in people’s lives.

Nothing is impossible to Mel Chester who believes that first we must learn how to listen to our own heart and second believe in the good of others in order to teach and serve. This is something that we can all do. His humble advice would be for each one of us to seize every opportunity that comes our way. Mel’s organizational skills during his tenure at Xerox, gave him great confidence in handling hundreds of people at once. Not one of these people was ever turned away.

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