What follows is information on the projects I am working on in Botswana. If you would like to know more about any of the work I am doing, please do not hesitate to email me and I will be more than happy to discuss it with you. In a similar vein, if you would like to help with a project, offer your own wisdom, or partner with us, please also get in touch with me. Thank you for your interest in the work being done in Botswana.
Extension Year Assignment
(from June 2013 to July 2014)
(from June 2013 to July 2014)
My third year assignment has me working both as a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader (PCVL) and with an international NGO called Project Concern International (PCI).
Peace Corps Volunteer Leader
Serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader provides individuals with international development, managerial, communication and leadership skills, and will gives them a variety of new experiences and opportunities in addition to a PCV's part-time work at an organization. PCVLs work closely with Peace Corps staff and Volunteers, and in many ways get the “best of both worlds” when it comes to having a say in Peace Corps Botswana’s program development and also being sources of support for Volunteers. The bullet points:
- Support Peace Corps Botswana staff and 134 serving volunteers, including directly managing 36 volunteers
- Work directly with Program Staff and Botswana government personnel to assess host agencies and villages to ensure quality site development for 58 incoming volunteers
- Design and conduct trainings for incoming and serving volunteers on job assignments, program design and management, governance in local NGOs and CBOs, and on cultural sensitivity and diversity
- Provide technical assistance to serving volunteers; inform volunteers about available resources to better assist their host agencies; and mitigate issues between staff, volunteers, and host country counterparts
- Draft, produce, and implement training and resource materials to help new volunteers acclimate to life in Botswana
- Plan and organize events at the Peace Corps Headquarters and at regional sites, including staff, volunteer, and community activities
- Delegate to Peace Corps Botswana's Project Advisory Committee (PAC), a delegation of leaders from government Ministries, international organizations, and communities that meet with Peace Corps Staff to assess and improve the post's program in country
- Represent Peace Corps Botswana to the US Embassy, State Department, USAID, UN agencies, and national and international media outlets
Program Officer for Project Concern International
With PCI, I am assisting with a $16.7 million project funded by USAID (Tsela Kgopo OVC and Gender Project) that is designed to contribute to the national agenda of addressing factors that increase the vulnerability of orphans, vulnerable children, adolescent girls, and women. The program collaborates with government, universities and other educational institutions, the private sector, and civil society organizations to address the needs of orphans and vulnerable children and their families, with a focus on addressing gender issues. I am working most closely on the integrated early childhood education (IECD) component. My exact deliverables go as follows:
- Design, promote, and host an IECD forum for national and international partners, including USAID, CDC, and the Government of Botswana
- Conduct focus groups on effective strategies for and facilitation of life skills materials for children and youth
- Compile, edit, and finalize an Adolescent Life Skills Toolkit to be published and adopted by the Botswana government and used to strengthen the current National Strategy on Life Skills Education
- Coordinate and review an IECD Resource Pack for national publication, confirm resource materials from authors, and conduct training sessions to facilitate the rolling out of materials to partners and stakeholders across Botswana
- Collaborate with partner organization, Hope World Wide, to develop a "model site" to demonstrate best practices in IECD, from researching approaches to drafting a concept paper to training staff and community members on implementation strategies and then national expansion to the model
- Manage the expansion and implementation of multiple projects at partner sites, including providing technical training and oversight for integrated approaches to address early childhood development, youth empowerment, and gender
- Provide technical assistance and build capacity of CBOs and 11 implementing partners to provide HIV/AIDS care and support services for adolescents infected or affected by HIV/AIDS and their caregivers through conducting hands-on trainings and workshops, community outreach, project oversight and proposal writing, and youth activity development
- Alongside partner agencies and District Multi-Sectoral AIDS Committee, assisted with starting teen clubs for 150 HIV+ youth
- Conduct site visits to assess the implementation of the project at the local level, including assisting with data collection and monitoring and evaluation of the project to safeguard its successful implementation
First Two-Year Assignment
(from June 2011 to June 2013)
(from June 2011 to June 2013)
Gabane Community Home-Based Care and Early Childhood Education Center
In February 2012, I moved to the village of Gabane and was assigned to capacitate staff at Gabane Community Home-Based Care and Early Childhood Education Center. This NGO started in 1997, at a time when many people were bedridden and dying of HIV/AIDS. Since its inception, the organization has provided care to hundreds of patients. The organization's original focus was to provide home-care to the dying. Recognizing the need for a more holistic approach to helping this population, however, the NGO expanded to include services for those affected by HIV/AIDS, most specifically to orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). Working with OVC has become a major focus for the organization. Their Early Childhood Education Program is currently working directly with 42 children daily and significantly more within the community. The organization now serves many functions, all working towards helping the sick and vulnerable. Programs include: home-based care, ARV adherence counseling, health and wellness workshops, preschool/early childhood education, orphan care, and caregiver training and support.
I worked with the staff on a number of projects and working diligently on systems strengthening. Among my major projects include:
- Overseeing a multi-year international capacity-building project funded by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), including training staff on areas such as governance and leadership, strategic planning, policy writing, and financial management and helping implement new systems in these areas
- Developing a new monitoring and evaluation plan for the Early Childhood Education Program, which tracks students that graduate from our program throughout their primary education to follow their development and then provide caregiver education when needed
- Brainstorming new fun and educational activities to incorporate into their lesson plans
- Digitizing reports and record keeping systems
- Improving financial management and reporting systems
- Creating marketing strategies and program information packets
- Teaching basic computer skills, including typing and internet research (working towards Excel and Access database management)
- Leading hands-on skills training sessions on: management, finance and budgeting, administration, report research and writing, proposal writing, resource mobilization, and monitoring and evaluation
- Networking with local universities and organizations to promote collaboration and increase partnerships
I also worked very hard with the staff at the organization to promote community development projects. Our two most noteworthy projects were:
- Tripling the size of our garden to provide food for the children enrolled in our Early Childhood Education Pre-School Program and to our most needy Home-Based Care patients. In fact, by January 2013, our garden was producing so much that we were able to feed these demographics and still have enough vegetables left over for income generation. Another positive aspect of this garden project has been getting volunteers to take ownership. We have done this by giving a small portion of the vegetables grown to those volunteers that consistently help maintain the garden.
- Building a house for a destitute family in the community. This has meant mobilizing resources, both monetary and labor, to help this family. We have engaged the community in all aspects, including: fundraising, construction, and with materials. This project has been extremely rewarding, as it is providing those basic needs that will help the family. By February 2013, the family of ten will have a home to call their own, complete with a pit latrine on their compound.
In another capacity, as a representative from Gabane Community Home-Based Care I will also be working with our key partners in the Gabane Clinic and Health Post to improve and standardize the reporting and data collection systems at the district level for home-based care patients. This includes assisting in the home-based care delivery and records for over 150 patients in the Gabane community. Additionally, we strive to improve ARV adherence counseling and to promote health education talks and collaboration with the Gabane Support Group.
I am serving in a number of roles within the NGO to help expand their reach and improve systems. This will also help me expand my own knowledge and potential impact.
Botswana Scouts Association
I am one of the leaders of a Scouts Troop at Segoditshane Primary School in Gaborone. I am currently working with another PCV and two Batswana leaders in overseeing this troop of approximately 50 students that meet twice per week. This includes writing session activities and also training and meeting with Adult Troop Leaders, Student Patrol Leaders, and troop members. In addition to leading the troop, the other PCV and I are part of a team designing a replicable model for the Botswana Scouts Association, including developing program curricula, outdoor education, and leadership training materials.
BOCAIP Tumelong Counseling and Childcare Center
BOCAIP Tumelong Counseling and Childcare Center's mission is to improve the quality of life of people affected and infected with HIV/AIDS in Kumakwane and surrounding villages through the provision of care and support services. To do this, Tumelong cares and supports 639 orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and 109 people living with HIV/AIDS. In 2011, the Center worked with children, youth, and adults who are affected and/or infected with HIV/AIDS through one of its programs, including: onsite counseling for OVC and community members, psychosocial support (including helping 284 of the 338 registered orphans), preschool education, afterschool care, nutrition and feeding, and HIV testing and counseling. The services at Tumelong have been being offered for free as a way to ensure that the community's needs are met. This means that community members are able to receive services who would otherwise not be able to get the necessary care.
Unfortunately, funding is difficult to come by these days and many great organizations across Botswana have taken a hit. Tumelong was among the organizations that suffered from this loss of funding. In July, the Childcare Center portion of the NGO closed down. From June 2011 to February 2012, I worked with the staff at Tumelong to help restart programming for their Childcare Center. In this capacity, I led trainings on proposal writing, planning and budgeting, time management, and program development. I also assisted in the writing of their strategic and resource mobilization plans and helped with implementation of both. During my time at Tumelong, we were able to secure funds to continue offering programs to those most impacted by HIV/AIDS in the Kumakwane community.
Kumakwane Primary School Debate Club
The Debate Club is a way to work with primary school students in standard five, six, and seven on developing English language proficiency and critical thinking skills through debate. Alongside another PCV in Kumakwane, we taught basic debate skills and also research, writing, and public speaking skills. The most dynamic outcome of the Debate Club was the fostering of critical thinking skills through engaging in debates and discussing issues like corporal punishment, health, HIV/AIDS, etc. The students learned to think through difficult issues, create and voice their own opinions, and stand up for themselves. While this may seem trivial to those outside of Botswana, this is a huge feat and one of the things I am most proud of in terms of the impact of my work.
Botswana Red Cross Society
Saturday is Kids Clubs for the orphans and vulnerable children in Moshupa, a village about 50km outside of Gaborone. Since June of 2011, I have been joining the PCV in Moshupa to participate in this program. Together with local volunteers, we set up activities for the children, make food for them, and engage in psychosocial support counseling with the OVC. We have also assisted in the brainstorming and development of other OVC projects to be implemented by Red Cross volunteers.
Reneetswe Happy Home Care Center
Reneetswe Happy Home Care Center in the village of Mmankgodi is a community-based organization that works with orphans and vulnerable youth ages 6 to 14. These children are often left without viable caretakers and therefore do not receive the care and support they need. The CBO is able to help them with psychosocial support, education and training, homework assistance, computer training, life skills instruction, and food baskets. In 2012, Reneetswe Happy Home Care Center is going to transition to a new location and begin partnerships with community organizations. I will be working with the Coordinator to help facilitate this transition, including re-writing their Constitution and then assisting them with filing paperwork to become a registered non-governmental organization, re-colonizing and setting up the new facility, training Board and staff members on a variety of topics, and implementing programs (as needed).
- Lead yoga sessions to orphans, vulnerable children, and youth
- Facilitate discussions to engage youth in direct dialogue about sexual health issues
- Consult with host country nationals and conduct one-on-one trainings on starting a business, strategic planning, marketing, merchandising, and organizational development
- Teach geography and Spanish to children in an effort to show them the expanse of the world, excite them about what is out there/opportunities, and encourage them to stay in school so they can go experience these things
- Set up arts and crafts projects and educational learning activities for out-of-school youth
- Empower people living with HIV/AIDS through assisting with community garden projects and positive living workshops
- Correspond with three American classrooms through the World Wise Schools program to help facilitate discussion about Botswana and its people, in an effort to break down stereotypes and improve understanding of other cultures on the part of Americans
- Discuss animal cruelty with host country nationals, particularly children, and promote better treatment and understanding of the needs of animals
- Designing and publishing a website for Pelegano Village Industries in Gabane to help them market and sell their goods (including pottery, wall art, glass, etc.) - a portion of the money sold by these artisans goes back into the community to assist OVC programs like the ones at Gabane Community Home-Based Care