Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Community Effort: President Khama Event A Success

On 19 October 2012, His Excellency Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, the President of Botswana, held a "Community Service Day" at Gabane Community Home-Based Care. This day was more than any of us at the center could have hoped for. It was a blessing that will only be truly realized by those we care for here.

The event began with introductions of key visitors - the President and his entire cabinet, among others (protocol observed) - and speeches by the village's Kgosi and other donors. And then the main event was announced... a huge overhaul of our center's garden! This would be a hands-on project and require the participation of all the visitors in attendance.

Our previous garden was small and barely produced the greens we needed to feed the children at our pre-school. And, if the weather got too hot (which it almost always does in the summer), then the vegetables were fried because our net covering was in disrepair. In our new strategic plan, we hoped to expand the garden by the end of 2014. This, we hypothesized, would be a stretch but was a reasonable one. By the end of the day, with the help and support of the Gabane Community and the government employees present, our garden was transformed into something truly magnificent. Two years and two months before our proposed deadline. Amazing.

It was a beautiful thing to watch the community come together to help the center and make our dream a reality. They took turns shoveling dirt, tilling the land, and planting seedlings. Support Group members joined hands with Ministers of Parliament and children ran around playing games, reminding us why we were there. It was a joyous day.

In the end, the new garden is triple in size and has an irrigation system that utilizes rain water runoff (courtesy of a new water collection/pipe system that was also installed that day). Whats more, the new garden will produce enough food to feed the pre-school and the home-based care patients. That means so many more people that are in need will be helped by this new garden! And, on top of all that, fruit trees were donated so we could start a small orchard and our old netting was replaced with beautiful new netting to keep the elements and the animals from harming our produce. (And they used our old netting to create shade cover over the children's playground equipment!)

I have to also mention the fact that I got to meet another president... because this was definitely not something that I expected to happen when I came to Peace Corps. I have met my fair share of important people - Michelle Obama, Former President George Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, numerous US Congressmen, and now His Excellency Sir Seretse Khama Ian Khama. And, not only that, but I've gotten to spend a fair amount of time talking with them and really getting to know them and the work they do. For someone that favors politics, this has been quite something! I feel very lucky to have gotten all of these opportunities.

Other donations on this day included food from a local grocery chain as well as fifty new wheelchairs to be used by home-based care patients that have trouble getting around (donated by the Botswana-China Partnership). This will be invaluable for the families of our home-based care patients. Our gratitude goes out to Mr. Nan for his generosity.

Of course, many thanks are extended to everyone that came out to help, especially the Office of the President, the Gabane Support Group, Peace Corps Country Director Tim Hartman for attending, and my boyfriend Tuan (who helped with preparation before the event and with day-of activities). From the bottom of my heart, thank you. You have made this center so proud. We are forever grateful.

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