Saturday, October 29, 2011

Downtown Thamaga, across the street from the house
of Kelli Haynes, the "Botswana  9" volunteer with whom
we spent a week.

The landscape around Thamaga is dotted with great
rocks and piles of rocks, some of the piles are hundreds
of feet high, and they seem to have been balancing
for eons.

October 29.  Two weeks since we last wrote and it seems like so much has happened. We spent five days in Thamaga, a one-hour  bus ride from Kanye, to “shadow” PCV Kelli Haynes, who has been in Botswana for fifteen months, so that we could experience service witha volunteer working with people and organizations in her community.
Kelli’s house is on the grounds of the Botswelelo Pottery Collective, which was our first stop of the day. It began as a mission project in the 1970’s and is now a fully self-sufficient business, very impressive. Most of what they potters do is make tableware, using some traditional designs and color.  They also do some larger work, as shown in the picture.
Carol and Kelli meet with the director of the
Pottery Cooperative
Their bread and butter is patterned dinnerware,
but the potters also do special work, like these pots

Kelli works with a junior secondary school (grades 8, 9 and 10), about 30 minutes walk from her house.  There are nearly 650 students who, in addition to classes, have a tea break in the morning and receive a hot lunch in the early afternoon - cooked in big pots over hot fires.  Students are highly disciplined.  
John and Kelli outside the office of the Junior Secondary
School where Kelli helps develop youth leadership skills

We assisted Kelli in the Guidance/Counseling class - often dispelling myths about the United States, based on the students’ understanding gleaned through television.  We also met twice with her after-school “PACT” Club - a leadership training class.  The students were shy, at first and after warming up to us became very articulate as English speakers (their second language) Needless to say, we didn’t get far with Setswana, which actually is not spoken in the secondary schools here. 

We also engaged in a rehearsal for a couple of students for a presentation at an all-school assembly.  It became an impromptu speech class as the students gained enthusiasm for the project. The two students who did speak to the entire student body did a very good job.
Students, all 650 of them, stand for a morning
assembly.  Their self-discipline during these
assemblies is impressive.

One of Kelli's leadership training students speaks to
her classmates about good study habits
These two students made outstanding presentations
to the students in Kelli's school

Every day, the kitchen staff cooks lunch for 650 students
heating these pots over open wood fires.

Also during shadow week we met Alpha, a young Batswana who has founded The Jubilante Recovery Centre on a wing and a prayer, with no financial resources, yet enormous energy and passion.  He speaks on the radio, and gets calls from people all over the country.  We had the good fortune of joining Alpha at the Botswana Police Criminal Investigation Unit in Gaborone for an interview on the correlation between substance abuse and crime. Alpha’s efforts are being supported by others including PCV Kelli as he is applying for a grant to fund his project to open the first in-patient clinic in Botswana. The connection between drug/alcohol abuse and the HIV/AIDS epidemic here was repeated often during our week of interviews at clinics, schools and community organizations.  
Alpha is a young man with a vision - and who just got
a paying job working with public schools, which will enable him
to bring his dream of an alcohol and drug rehabilitation
center closer to reality

Training continues and is actually more challenging now for patience and hanging in since that we have had some field experience.  Our group of 35 trainees remains strong and committed.

Last Saturday we attended the Peace Corps’ 50th Anniversary Celebration in Gaborone at the American Embassy.  It was incredibly inspirational, including speeches by several local dignataries.  Our favorite moment was when the Country Director quoted Archbisop Desmond Tutu who once said  “Peace Corps Volunteers are people who work their butts off for no pay.”  Hmmm.  

Kids love games everywhere in the world, and
this neighbors of Kelli's are no exception
This week we received our site assignment at Goodhope Senior Secondary School in the Life Skills Program and met the Head of Guidance and Counseling.  Goodhope is about an hour south of Kanye, and the largest senior secondary (11th-12th grades) in the country.  It is a boarding school, with 2400 students, 60% of whom have been orphaned by AIDS.  We will have a house on the campus where most or all of the teachers live as well.  So after our swearing-in on November 9, the next day we will go to Goodhope, with hopes that the name bodes well for our upcoming experience there!

1 comment:

Doug said...

It looks wonderfully warm. It's snowing here in Brooklyn. SNOWING! In October.

Good luck with your assignment. Sounds like a great fit. You mention disabusing the kids of the myths perpetrated by U.S. television. A life time job - and that's just the news.