It was pouring rain when I woke up (a sign of good luck in Botswana but not terribly glamorous nevertheless, especially because the mornings are very cold here). I drank three cups of instant coffee while I got ready for the day, feeling somewhat anxious and very tired from a restless night’s sleep. All morning I had been sms-ing with my friends who felt the same – we were all full of nerves wondering what our fates would be. At 8:15, I met up with the other trainees in my ward to walk to the training center together. We had prepared jello snacks to nom on the night before so we ate that as we walked to distract ourselves.
Once at the training center, we were ushered into a separate room where we met up with the other trainees that live in different wards. We were in that room for a little over an hour while the staff prepared our main room for the site placement announcements.
When the room was ready, the staff called us into the room. The chairs had been arranged in a horseshoe facing a large map of Botswana with numbers placed all around it, signifying locations that trainees would be sent. We anxiously took our seats, holding each other’s hands and wishing under our breath that they listened to us about our placement preferences. Then the revealing began.
The staff told us to look under our seats. Affixed to the bottom of each chair was a number, which would be the order that we would go to find out our sites. I got number 3! Whoo hoo! I was so relieved that I wouldn’t have to wait long to find out! One-by-one we would go up to the front of the room and pick up an envelop with our name on it. Inside the envelope was a quote and another number, which correlated to the numbers on the map.
When it was my turn, I skipped to the front of the room (proof is in the video, and yes, we did videotape the site announcements). I found my envelope in the NGO sector section and literally tore it open. My quote read: “Anything is possible with a willing heart in…” And then number 36. I went to the map but I didn’t have to wait long to find out where I was going because Mary, a Bots 9 Volunteer who was at the event, screamed “With me!” and jumped up and down. At the same time, my program director pointed out the site. I will be living and working in KUMAKWANE for the next two years!
Kumakwane is a small village (with a population of just under 3,000 people) located about 30 minutes southwest of Gaborone (the capital city of Botswana). What this means is that I will be getting to have the more rural and intimate experience that I wanted with Peace Corps but, at the same time, have access to many of the modern conveniences found in Gabs by taking a short bus ride! Best of both worlds? Yes, I do think so! (Not to mention that I have other volunteers and trainees that I have grown close to within a couple hour drive and, for those friends that are further, I have a place to stay when I go see the wildlife in the northern part of the country!)
What makes my placement even better for me is the organization that I will be working with (which I had told my program director was a priority for me). I will be working for the Tumelong Counseling and Childcare Center. Essentially, the organization takes a holistic approach to helping families and orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) affected by HIV/AIDS. They do this by offering counseling, support groups, education and training, adherence clubs, after-school and youth programs, etc for children and families so they can live healthy and fruitful lives. I will get to work with the national parent organization and with this local branch, while also getting to play with children at the preschool. I really can't imagine a better position for me - this is a cause and an organization that I can stand for! Here is a copy of the job description that the organization provided me:
Peace Corps Volunteer Job Description
Tumelong Counseling and Childcare Center’s Peace Corps Volunteer will work under the title of NGO Capacity Building Consultant. The Volunteer will live and work in Kumakwane, where Tumelong Counseling and Childcare Center is located. The following will be the function of the Peace Corps Volunteer for the next 24 months:
- The introduction and/or strengthening of appropriate programming strategies and programming skills (i.e. design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation)
- The growth of organizational capacities such as management, financial, administrative, etc. and the establishment of appropriate and effective systems
- The development of networks between non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, government, private sector, and international partners
- The stimulation of creativity and growth of both the confidence and skills needed for successful resource mobilization
- The reinvigoration or introduction of the value of volunteerism leading to an increase in the number of citizens in Kumakwane participating in IV/AIDS programming and activities at the community level
- The expansion of community understanding about HIV/AIDS and the growth of a commitment to the values of Botswana’s Vision 2016, leading to the reduction of stigma and discrimination
- The expansion of community understanding concerning available government HIV/AIDS programs, services, and resources and the increase in citizen use of what is available
- Provides capacity building for proposal writing and development to source funding for the organization
- Document and share lessons learned and best practices within the country and the district at local and regional conferences
- Participate in the relevant meetings and workshops/seminars/discussions at the local, district, and national levels