Bloomington couple begin year of volunteering in Namibia

IT ISN’T unusual for James and Sharon McNamara of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington to travel outside their comfort zone to help others. After building homes for the poor in El Salvador and visiting southern Africa, they decided it was time for an extended service opportunity.

Last month, the McNamaras started a year of service as volunteers with WorldTeach in Namibia. They will be teaching math, English and science as well as computer skills to students in primary schools, secondary schools and adult training facilities.

Formed in 1986, WorldTeach seeks to link developing countries in need of educational assistance with volunteers who have an interest in serving, teaching and learning. The organization has had a presence in Namibia since 1990, with volunteers supporting the country’s educational reforms. As part of those reforms, all of the curricula have been rewritten and the medium of instruction has changed from Afrikaans to English.

Before beginning their work, the McNamaras received training from the Ministry of Education and the Namibia Educational Technology Alliance in Windhoek, the capital and largest city in Namibia.

AFTER traveling to Africa in 2008, the McNamaras said they felt drawn to the region and its people.

“I have seen the conditions in southern Africa, talked to people there, visited school children who were actually in need of pencils (much less computers),” Sharon wrote in applying to WorldTeach. “I didn’t want to leave.”

James added that he “felt a void upon retiring” after 28 years with the Illinois Department of Human Services and wanted to do something to improve the lives of the people in the region.

Active in their Bloomington community, the McNamaras serve on the board of directors of Recycling Furniture for Families. In addition, Sharon has been involved in JustFaith, a social justice formation program, and James has been a volunteer with Faith in Action, an organization that assists elderly clients with transportation and offers companionship.

They were part of a team of volunteers who traveled to San Luis Talpa in El Salvador in 2008 to build homes with Fuller Housing.

For more information about WorldTeach, visit the organization’s Web site at

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