Great Week Shadowing!
(For anyone who doesn’t know already, you can double clik on the pictures to enlarge them!)
This week was has been very inspiring. The Peace Corps sends trainees in to the field in the middle of training to try give the trainee a taste of what is shortly to come. The Peace Corps assigns us to “shadow”, or follow around, another Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) who has been performing as a Volunteer for at least three months and is doing a similar function.
John and I were assigned to shadow Marion and Tish Mobley. We were both very happy with this assignment as I had started following The Mobley Family Updates blog months before we left home.
I think their blog is one of the most informative Blogs in the Botswana Peace Corps. Their blog truly teaches people in American (and world wide) about Botswana, the issues the county is facing, the role of the Peace Corps in that county, the history of HIV/AIDS, as well as it documents their personal experiences. I have been looking forward to meeting them for months!
Another reason to be excited is that Marion is an IT guy. John has also been assigned IT work. Since IT assignments are new in this county John was very anxious to see what type of work Marion actually did. Tish is working for a Not For Profit (Non Governmental Organization NGO) Stepping Stones International (www.steppingstonesintl.org), which is an NGO that helps teenage orphans and vulnerable children.
Every part of our week was incredible and the entire experience has motivated and inspired both of us about our work in the Peace Corps.
About Marion and Tish: They were the most gracious hosts we could hope to have. They told us they had an incredibly good shadowing experience with the McGee’s and they hoped to provide the same to us.
Their home is very nice.
They had several issues that made their housing situation take months to get resolved – but they moved into a new house last month. It has two bedrooms and two bathrooms, with hot running water! We were able to bathe in hot water every day!!!!!
Tish had planned a menu that included foods we never thought we would be able to get in Botswana and made us special treats each night (including pizza, hamburgers, meatloaf, home-baked breads, and swag bars). Hot coffee was available every morning! What a treat!
All of us have had similar interests in the past and it was nice sharing our past lives, current experiences, and future hopes.
The general policy when we travel and stay for “free” at another PCV’s home is that we either bring enough food to share equitably or we pay them for the resources that we use so that no one is prejudiced. This is a difficult at best solution, however most visiting stays are worked out to everyone’s satisfaction. Marion and Tish had a great idea for our stay that we plan to implement for folks who come to stay with us. They told us they would simply pay for everything and provide all the food and drinks and all else and in return we should pass this “savings” on to the next years’ group of trainees who will be visiting us. This seemed like a decent proposal and we appreciated the simplicity.
Carol’s Peace Core Preview: After spending a week with Stepping Stones International I can’t tell you how anxious I am to finish training and be assigned a school and a job.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic in this county has left more than 50% of the children without at least one parent. These children are at very high risk of living life in poverty, starvation, abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, obtaining a limited education and ultimately catching and spreading the virus.
Botswana has many orphanages filled with these vulnerable children. Stepping Stones is an incredible organization that focuses on teenager orphans, which is often a population overlooked since many people think teenagers can or should be taking care of themselves.
This week Stepping Stones was launching its Grand Opening of its brand new Leadership Center. They planned to help these children “find the leader in themselves”. The organization has study groups, drama groups, tutors, mentors, social workers, computer labs, gardens and about 80 teens they work with every day. They also provide them with at least one meal a day.
It is amazing to see the children here thrive. So many children in this culture are shy and lack confidence to the point that it is disabling. However, the teens here are truly finding their voices.
John and I had an opportunity to run a focus group (government speak for survey) with some of the older teens (18-20).
The US Embassy wanted to get opinions from the youth of Botswana in regards to the countries problems, the perception of the US, and what the youth though the US could do to mitigate the problems. It was incredible to hear them argue and articulate their own thoughts and idea about the Botswana government, the American government and their own community.
I wish I could be there to see the young children who come in so quiet and thin with old and worn clothes actually turn into the mature, young adults sitting in our focus group. I realized I would get to play some part in this, somewhere else in the county very soon. This is the exact experience I hoped to have in the Peace Corps.
The launch of the Leadership Center was a huge event. Business leaders, cabinet ministers from the UK and Botswana, ambassadors for several counties (including the US), not for profit organizations, teachers, students, churches, and all other sorts of people from Europe, North American, and Africa attended. After the event I had a chance to meet the founder and executive director, Lisa Jamu (www.steppingstonesintl.org). She told me Stepping Stones was in the process of building satellite programs across the nation and she hoped that I would contact them when I got to my assigned school in hopes of starting another partnership! I can barely wait to do just that.
I am so excited and so motivated after this visit. It was great seeing and hearing how Marion and Tish settled into the Peace Corps and dealt with issues and problems and also see them making a difference along the way – doing Peace Corps work.
I hope to take up Marion and Tish’s request to “Play it forward” on every level that they made the request.
It was great spending the week with Marion. We spent several hours going over the technology available in Botswana as well as the general skills levels of the local people. He also spent hours helping me upgrade my blog. I finally have it in a format I like and feel comfortable with. While you all can see some of the changes I have now implemented all sorts of behind the scene widgets and gadgets so the blog is backed up, optimized, and even ready/optimized for mobile phones! Check it out on your smart phone!
In addition to being the IT guys that Carol outlined, Marion and I are also District Community Liaisons. I’m not entirely sure what that title means, but Marion showed me what it means to him. I will be a part of the District Aids Coordinated Office (DAC), which is responsible for overseeing all efforts related to AIDS/HIV in the district, which is a large geographic area of the Country. The DAC Office, with the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health Care, local governments, NGO’s, and anyone else participating in the eradication, all attend to the treatment and care of AIDS/HIV.
Marion has also taken on a few secondary jobs. He goes to the library twice a week and teaches people how to use the computer. It is a very rudimentary learning environment and most anyone with some basic computer skills could teach the kids something. They are all so grateful and most of them seem to learn the little tasks we give them very quickly. I expect I will have the opportunity to participate in similar activities in whatever village we are assigned to.
Marion has also volunteered to teach children at Stepping Stones International, (that Carol mentioned above). I can easily see Carol and I finding some projects to help children or adults obtain some skills that will help them for the rest of their lives.
While we were in Moshudi with the Mobley’s, we did a lot of walking and a bit of hiking.
We hiked to the top of a small rock mountain where an old school had been converted to a Museum.
It wasn’t the Art Institute of Chicago, but it had some interesting history and pictures of the local tribes over the past 200 years or so.
There was a very old gas station there with some old pumps.
The view from the top was pretty cool and standing on the edge of the large rocks looking down gave me the hee-bee-jee-bees!
Moshudi is another old village with many typical Botswana houses. Typically unfinished, even after 20 years or more of working on them.
They tend to build their homes over many, many years, small bits at a time, as money comes available to them.
We passed this donkey cart as we hiked up the mountain, but when
I took his picture he insisted on some money, which caught me off guard. I will try to ask first, next time.
This cactus had an interesting look. A giant asparagus seemed to be growing from it!
While we were in the bus station at the end of our shadowing assignment, we went to a casino for a few minutes to lose $20 on an automated Roulette Wheel. They were nice enough to allow us to check our heavy backpacks full of a weeks worth of dirty laundry. We spent a few hours checking out the city of Gaborone, which is the biggest city in Botswana. We went to the mall, which was quite adequate for just about anything you could want. There was pretty much everything that a mall had in America, just on a smaller scale. The big problem would be how to transport anything large without the use of a vehicle. We will have to wait and see how that goes.
We stopped at an open air market and pondered some fun looking unknown cooking foods.
Beans, grains, spices, leaves, seeds, and about everything you could want to cook with. I even tried my first (and possibly only) dried caterpillar. It was not as bad as I thought, and all the vendors were saying they were so much better when re-hydrated in cooking oil and served in a light tomato sauce. I’m not sure I want to go that far.
The week was great, and I feel fully satisfied that we accomplished the goals that Shadowing had in mind. The Mobley’s home is so nice that now my biggest fear is that Carol and I may be downgrading from our current nice conditions to a place with no electricity or running water! We should know soon where we will be placed! Stay tuned…..