24 November 2010

Write Up for Peace Corps

Last minute we were asked to write a vignette for PC Botswana to present to DC. These vignettes were to push congress to continue with programs and give more funds to the PC. Not many volunteers turned in vignettes and I am not one to go above and beyond like that so of course I did not do one either. However, they know I am a sucker and can not say no- so they called me and of course I complied. I thought I would share it on the blog since I am not inspired to write much lately. Sorry for the typos and misuse of rammer- like I said this was very last minute. And don’t worry PC office here is editing it for me!!!!

Being a Peace Corps Volunteer offers many ups and downs professionally and personally. Matt and I have been serving in Molepolole, Botswana for 19 months.

Early on in our service we worked really hard to get to know the community members that we lived amoungst. This entailed going to weekly kgotla meetings (meetings held at the chief’s work place), going door to door to introduce ourselves, and being patient while waiting for the community to trust us. After talking to the community elders and many women in our ward, collectively we decided that the ward needed something to help educate and engage the out of school youth; thus, we started an out of school youth group, Bright Future, Lekwapheng Leaders of Tomorrow.

Day one of our meetings, 30 women came to the meeting and we were thrilled that this was truly something the community wanted and participated in. We started with very little to no funding. We brought the group together weekly, taught Life Skills, English and we even showed videos to start discussion about HIV/AIDS. Watching these youth leave their compounds for a few hours, become part of group and become more open and free has been poignant.

About five months ago, we were approached by a local NGO called Kagisano Women’s Shelter, they wanted our out of school youth group to apply for funding using them as our umbrella organization. They had heard about our group and told us we were eligible for a grant that the Ministry of Youth was giving out. We said sure, we would love this, as we were constantly thinking about how to raise money locally to start a chicken farm, get more supplies and register our group. Together, Matt and Kagisano wrote the grant; however, Kagisno did the final budget part on their own. Months passed, we were still meeting with the group and we did not think much about the grant, we kinda just assumed we were not selected and thought about beginning the Peace Corps Partnership Grant Process.

Then, three months ago, the big news arrived. We had won the grant and the contract was in the mail to be signed. Matt and I were overjoyed and sat down to look at what was given to us. OH MY GOD- 1.4 million pula ($175k) was given to our amazing youth group. We got all the money that we had ask for and not only were we going to be starting a poultry farm, we were going to get to send 14 girls back to high school to get their diplomas all expense paid. Women empowerment at it’s finest. The most exciting part of this grant is that we get to hire and train two life skills facilitators to take our place when we leave. This project and weekly session will continue and these youth will continue to be served. We both talk about how wonderful it is that this group will go on after us, I mean this is one of the hardest task that is put before us in our two years- and now it is not only possible, it is inevitable.

Over time, the group has become a project that has taught Matt and I so much. These women and few brave men have been our source of hope and direction, working in a foreign country when the taboo topic of HIV/AIDS becomes too much. They have opened our eyes to the disconnect between what we think is going on in this country and what really happens at a local community level even compound level.

Life here has been a serious of missteps, hard lessons and experiences that have changed our lives forever, whether for good or bad. If, when we signed up for the Peace Corps some one would have told me, a teacher, and Matt, a cancer researcher, that we would leave here quieter, calmer and more unsure about the future, I would not have believed them. The one thing we know for sure is that we have lived and claimed Africa as our home for a while and with this project our lives have been enhanced and changed. And yes, all of it, Botswana, Bright Future’s and Africa have left an imprint on Matt and I that will have forever changed our life and perspective.

Getting ready for South Africa trip. Can't wait to go to the beach. Going to do some diving and finally running in sand that is on the ocean not just the desert!


04 November 2010

For Some Bushmen, a Homeland Worth the Fight

One of the first times I have seen Botswana written about in the international news...... thought I would share.

here is the link (you have to cut and paste):

31 October 2010

So resourceful...

What we see as rubbish- has become a pretty cool guitar for someone to pass the day away with....