Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bots 14 Swears In (Also Known As "A Very Proud PCVL")

“Swearing In Day” is one of the proudest and most important moments in a Peace Corps Volunteer’s life. It signifies the end of pre-service training and the beginning of a journey that most have dreamed about for years. It is a day marked with achievement and promise. October 15th will hold this level of significance for 58 Bots 14s, who took their oath of service and became the newest group of PCVs in Botswana.

As spectators listened to the speeches given by our distinguished guests and Peace Corps colleagues, themes sprang to light. The ideas of togetherness and friendship and collaboration echoed through everyone. Ululations and cheers showed that we were together and in agreement. These three simple words are very profound and, as a third year volunteer, resonated with me as I heard them stated in numerous ways throughout the ceremony. They are the starting point for a fruitful service, which made them fitting for this occasion.

ChargĂ© d’ Affaires Michael Murphy articulated the richness of the Peace Corps experience – both its moments of joy and exhilaration and those of frustration and hardship. Through it all, he shared a message of positivity and urged the Bots 14s to recognize the formative role they will play in the development of youth and the importance of becoming a member of their local communities. Through this, he stated, “you will be able to open windows of learning and collaboration that no one else can... this collaboration can last a lifetime.”

These sentiments were shared by the Bots 14s, who seem to have a keen insight into Peace Corps service that far outweighs their time in country. Our very own Camille “CJ” Jones and Becky Carnes gave brilliant speeches in Setswana, causing many (myself included) to tear up, as they reminded us all about what really matters – “The meeting of hearts and the emphasis on collaboration... to build on the capacity of people.” At its core, that is what Peace Corps service is all about. “We can accomplish it together – learning from each other – together, Batswana and American, yes we can!”

Finally, at the end of his address, Kgosi Segkoma declared his wish for this Bots 14 group: “When you finish your service, I hope you feel you have given it all – and accomplished it together.” That is my hope for each of you as well. It has been an honor and a joy to have supported you as a PCVL throughout your PST. I am so proud of the Bots 14s and the entire Peace Corps family. Congratulations, guys! PULA!

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Virtues Project

A friend and fellow Bots 10 PCV is assisting a small local agency with their goal to bring about a more compassionate nation, in accordance with Vision 2016. One of their efforts in doing this is through bringing The Virtues Project to Botswana.

The Virtues Project is a global grassroots initiative to inspire the practice of virtues in everyday life. Its aim is to empower individuals "to live more authentic meaningful lives; families to raise children of compassion and integrity; educators to create safe, caring, and high performing learning communities; and leaders to encourage excellence and ethics in the workplace." This model is tried and tested in more than 95 countries and was honored by the United Nations during the International Year of the Family as a "model global program for families of all cultures."

I am proud to say that I am helping put on the very first Virtues Project workshop in Botswana, to be held next month. My role is assisting with logistics and recruiting interested and motivated parties to attend. So far we have registered forty people from the education and youth development fields. I will also be in attendance at the workshop, as will a representative from the organization I am working for, Project Concern International (PCI). My hope is that, along with the workshop participants, PCI can disseminate the information to our 11 implementing partners across the country and help spread this vision even further.

It is our mutual desire that the tools presented will help teachers and others nurture the children of Botswana in the skills and qualities they need to be successful in school and in life. This is a very meaningful project and one that I am grateful to be involved with.

This Is Just To Say (Water Rationing Continued)

Today it reached 107 degrees Fahrenheit. No amount of water can keep you from getting dehydrated at that temperature. Unfortunately, Botswana is still experiencing a very serious drought. Villages in the southern part of the country are completely without water three and four times per week now and the reservoir is down to 14% capacity. This is one of the disadvantages of living in a desert country in Africa. Excuse me if I look a little funky - I choose hydration over clean clothes any day. After all, baby wipes get me clean enough, right? Off I go to drink a glass of stored water then pray for rain. Because, yes, they believe prayer will bring on the downpour. TIA.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Meet My New Roommate

Meet Finda.

Finda is my new roommate. She will be living with me until she finishes her four month extension with Botswana's Ministry of Health.

Finda is a Bots 11 PCV (meaning she came in the group that arrived six months after me). For her first two years she lived in the village of Letlhakeng and worked ICT Local Government Capacity Builder at the District AIDS Coordinating Office.

Finda graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology and is currently applying for PhD programs with the goal of helping bring technology and computer training to rural underserved communities.

Her favorite color is purple, she loves to bake delicious treats, and you can follow her experience at

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Progress: Life Skills Toolkit

Today I put the finishing touches on the nearly 300-page Life Skills Toolkit that I have been working on for the past few months. It is still in draft form but I would say that it is now at the "final rough draft" stage. And I am pretty happy with that!

A lot goes into a document of this magnitude - one intended for publication and dissemination on a national level - so getting to this point has been no small feat. It has required significant research, focus groups, discussions, and analysis. All before organizing lesson plans and more into one cohesive document. I am proud to say that my compilation skills seem to be top notch and the information contained in those pages should be highly beneficial for life skills facilitators. Or at least I hope so.

To ensure the material is at the standard it needs to be, we are in the process of assembling a technical team to review and provide feedback on the document. We are calling on the heads of Botswana's Ministries, leaders in the education field, teachers, and even a few acclaimed students. I will sit with them throughout this process, gathering information, and having a dialogue about content. Afterwards, it's back to the keyboard and long hours to get it finished by mid-November, just in time to go to print before the nearly month-long festive holiday. Phew.

The more I work on this project, the more I understand the great need for it. With each teacher and volunteer and student that I talk to, I become more dedicated to its cause and excited to be a key player in making it happen. Because, while Botswana does have a great framework for life skills education and a basic curriculum, nothing exists with information for implementation. This toolkit should act as a way forward in using the preexisting material. Botswana needs something like this and the children and youth deserve it. Life skills education, here we come!