Thursday, February 2, 2012

Good Things Really Do Come To Those Who Wait

Well, I did it. I packed up all of my things and moved down the A-10 to the village of Gabane. It was no small task to wade through the things I brought, things left by the previous volunteer, and things gifted along the way, but I did it. And saying goodbye to my Kums Kids? Lets just say that more than a few tears were shed during the week before I left. It was trying to say the least. But, in the light of a new day (and looking from a new horizon, literally), I have to say that it all has been worth it - a true blessing.

Today marks my tenth month living in Botswana and it has taken until now to feel settled and truly happy. It is almost ironic to me that it's taken being uprooted to feel settled but that has been the case.

As you are aware, nearly seven months ago, the NGO that I was assigned to for my primary project at my post in Kumakwane closed down. I spent a lot of time trying to get things sorted and staff poised to reopen the center. Despite my best efforts, motivation waned. When it looked as though there was nothing more that I could do, I started investing my time in other projects in the community and its surrounding areas. I integrated as much as I could and befriended a group of wonderful children. As time went on, Peace Corps decided it was in my best interest to reassign me to a new site. This meant moving from a community that I had grown to love and starting over after close to a year in country. I was skeptical but accepted my fate. On Monday morning, my things and my life moved to Gabane.

The NGO that I am now working for is called Gabane Community Home-Based Care and Early Childhood Education Center. The organization has many functions, all working towards helping the sick and vulnerable. Programs include everything from home-based care, ARV adherence, and health and wellness workshops to preschool/early childhood education, orphan care, and caregiver training and support. All staff at the NGO are volunteers, many of whom have been at the organization since it opened in 1997. These staff members have foregone having a salary in exchange for being able to feed the children and continue to support their HIV+ clients. That staff have been continually fighting to keep it afloat, overcoming a plethora of obstacles along the way. Needless to say, they are selfless,  dedicated, willing, and motivated to help people. What's more, they are extremely excited about every idea that I have and truly understand that I am there to capacitate them (and not to do the work for them). As such, I am every bit as excited to teach them new skills and get them to "function at the next level" (as they so aptly put it).

For the past two days, I have been observing classrooms for the Early Childhood Education Program. This has given me an opportunity to watch them teach, to meet the children, and learn more about this aspect of the organization (which appears to be the cornerstone of future projects). Next week, I am meeting with the Executive Committee of the NGO and then going around to meet the partners, including staff from both the clinic and the health post, as well as members of the Ministry, our Kgosi (the village chief), and representatives from Pellegano Village Industries (an artist/artisan colony in the village that is helping support our organization). The following week, I will do ride alongs to observe the Home-Based Care Programs and meet the Support Group members. The staff and I agreed that it would be advantageous for me to see the many factions of the organization and how they function. The more I know, the more I can help.

In the past two days, however, I have already been able to start a number of beneficial projects, including: helping them brainstorm new fun and educational activities to incorporate into their lesson plans, developing a new monitoring and evaluation plan for the Early Childhood Education Program, digitizing reports and record keeping systems, teaching basic computer skills (including typing), and I set up email accounts for the organization and the main volunteer staff members. We are also planning on starting proposal writing sessions in the upcoming weeks. (In another vein, the women at the NGO are also pretty excited for me to help them make a picture wall to showcase their students and the work they are doing and also for me to do yoga with them!) There is a lot more to work on, which is something that is truly motivating and exciting to me. It looks like my next sixteen months are going to be busy!

I feel extremely blessed to be working with these women at the NGO. This is exactly what I had hoped to come into in joining the Peace Corps. This new site gives me the opportunity to help in so many different capacities - capacitating the staff to do their jobs better, assisting people living with HIV/AIDS and improving their quality of life, helping build curriculums and programs for orphans and vulnerable children, and then creating activities for children and youth to keep them active and healthy. And, on top of all that, I get to work with people that are motivated and passionate and care about their work. This is what I asked for during my first site placement interview. I told them that I didn't care what conditions I lived in - if I had water or electricity in my home - but that I wanted to work for a cause that I believed in and with people that were as dedicated to their mission as I would be. I can't imagine a better way to spend the rest of my time in Peace Corps.

In the end, I would never take back the time I spent in Kumakwane. Time spent with the Kums Kids and with the people from the village are among my most special memories. I was able to show Bokena how to hug, make goofy faces with Temogo, teach Elsie and Stompi Spanish, and paint Elijah's nails. I met Lovey and started a wonderful friendship (and stimulating book club). I had dogs that comforted me when I was homesick and adjusting to life in Botswana. And now? Now it's time for me to move forward and to do what I came here for - to help (even more). Finally, true contentment. 

And the new house isn't half bad either! See:

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