Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Getting to know the real Botswana

These photos are of kids who were my neighbors for a short while. They are very curious kids and always running around the yard having fun. Fidelis, in the white jacket, builds toys from scrap metal. The girl in the pink shirt, Pauline, is an industrious little 3 year old, who brings over a broom every time she comes to visit (maybe she was trying to tell me something...). The other two boys are brothers and really good dancers. They are happy kids and curious about America and everything I kept in my house. As Alex, 9 years old, told me one day,"I feel like I haven't seen a lot so I want to learn everything as quickly as possible!"

BAPL on Baylor's Website

Our organization is listed as a partner. Check out http://botswanateenclub.wordpress.com/about/ for more info

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bots Project Newsletter & Resource Links

This is an excellent website with information about HIV and AIDS worldwide:

Link to Baylor College of Medicine's Center in Botswana:

ACHAP's page about AIDS in Botswana:

If you'd like to receive our newsletter with updates about The Bots Project send an email to prentiss@thebotswanaproject.com.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Baylor's Pediatric AIDS Center in Gaborone

Our project team attends Teen Club every last Saturday of the month as volunteers to facilitate with activities for the 100+ 13-18 year old kids there who are also patients at Baylor. Teen Club is a place where they can receive psycho-social support. Many of them consider it a "home away from home" where they can be free to talk about what it is like living with HIV/AIDS.

This month's theme was Friendship and Peer Pressure. The adult volunteers and teens split into groups, had discussions about friendship and what one values in a friend, and then came up with skits to act out peer pressure situations. Each group acted out a skit. The kids were hilarious. One group pretended to be in the club, dancing and drinking, getting all crazy, and pressuring everyone to drink. Another skit involved a woman with HIV declining the pressure of her boyfriend to have intercourse. He didn't think people would see them as adults if they didn't have a child, but she didn't want to pass on HIV to her baby. The skits were well fit for situations these kids actually encounter here in Botswana, they did a great job.

Dr Paul has been working at Baylor's Pediatric AIDS Center in Gaborone for years now and said his goodbyes to the kids at Teen Club this past Saturday. He said a few words about how much he has seen Teen Club grow over the years, and that it is the teens' involvement and commitment that really makes it run. He got a little choked up, understandably. Stux, a 15 year old who is one of the Teen Leaders addressed Dr Paul, giving him thanks for his support. Stux said when he was a little boy Dr Paul would always make him take his medicine. Oftentimes he didn't want to and he'd get upset, but Dr Paul would always make him take it. He told him, "I'm a big boy now because of you. I've grown strong and big because of you." It was a heart warming to see a young man thanking the doctor who helped him take his ARVs to be where he is now. It was a touching moment.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Our Zimbabwean Neighbor

I recently read a book by journalist Heidi Holland, Dinner with Mugabe. Holland presents an intelligent, in-depth look at Mugabe through interviews with people he was in close contact. What happened to this man, everyone is wondering. He started off as a hero, fighting the colonial government that ruled what was then Rhodesia. He instilled programs that supported health and education. Today the country has fallen to pieces under his watch. Basically, Holland sees Mugabe as an emotionally detached man who never wanted to go into politics in the first place. She suggests he was looked up to as a leader and put in place because of his achievement of earning seven university degrees after being born into poverty. Interviews with people who knew him earlier in his life show that he was a shy loner as a child who grew into a warm and courteous adult. Mugabe is an intelligent man, Holland explains, yet his negligence in properly dealing with the painful experiences of not having a present father, the death of his brother when he was younger, being imprisoned for 11 years and not being allowed to attend the funeral of his only son, caused him to disconnect himself emotionally. This internal separation led to several characteristics in him such as being intolerable of others' opinions, which is evident in his actions today when people are killed if they disagree with him. In this book, Holland presents an abundant amount of information about southern African politics as well as psychological insight into human nature.

Being that Zimbabwe is a neighbor of Botswana, there are people who come here to escape the current conditions. It's bad over there. I'm sure you've seen it in the news. Some people have papers and come legally to Botswana, looking for work. They also go to South Africa, where more job opportunities exist, "but they end up selling tomatoes on the side of the road," a taxi driver told me in Johannesburg. In Cape Town, I met a young woman about my age who worked at the internet cafe and had recently come from Zimbabwe. In my mind I thought how Cape Town has everything- the ocean, mountains, and an arts & culture vibe. As we were chatting I asked her how she liked Cape Town. She said she loved it, "it has everything- food, water, electricity." That gave me goosebumps and put my perspective in check. It is really unfortunate and horrific what has happened in Zimbabwe. It's a delicate situation and Holland's book gives insight into what might "have happened" to Mugabe over the years.

image courtesy of: http//etchasketchist.blogspot.com

Monday, March 23, 2009

Great Expectations

It has now been close to almost two months. I must say that i was very skeptical initially. We were all fresh people straight out of college eager and keen to take over the world. Some of us had just been working for a couple of months.

Through my parents practice i would hear dreary stories of working with the government, and governmental organizations! How they take soooooooooo ever so long to do the simplest of things.

Man was i WRONG!!

I had never anticipated in my stereotypical view of governmental work; that our two leaders Katy, and Lesedi would be so determined to get this thing off the floor. Within the first month we had made our presence aware. The first presentation that i went to with the team at USAID blew everybody outta the water. Between, " Great Idea," "I am happy to see such determined young people,""you look great!" we heard no other remarks.

It has now been close to two months and we are known by the Ministry of Health, BAPL, Baler Clinic, Mascom and VARIOUS other huge organizations. The software is already up and running. Pilot test was executed and successful. I dont mean to toot our own horn, but we got our shit together.

I guess thats the difference in just working, and working for something you believe in passionately. I would like to thank the whole team for giving me this Golden opportunity to help in changing the lives of some of the people in Botswana, and to tell you all how AMAZING it is working with you.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I watched a Movie entitled “Sunshine” (2007) this morning. To summarise: it’s 50 years into the future; the sun is failing; Earth sends a team out to our star to detonate it, thereby resuscitating it. If you still want to watch the movie (Danny Boyle’s the director, if that means anything to you), let me warn you that I’ll probably spoil it for you.

You’ve been warned.

Okay, so Armageddon’s little brothers and sisters (the captain, the power-hungry (read: cowardly) second-in-command, the flyboy, the communications expert, the physicist, the lady who loves trees, etc.) are rolling along smoothly through orbit until everything goes wrong. I mean everything. They run out of oxygen, the sun burns a hole in their ship, and there’s a crazy, over-tanned murderer (who was previously stuck in space from the first mission) on the loose. As you might guess, everyone dies in the end. I mean, what did you expect? A space shuttle strapped to a bomb the size of an apartment block headed straight for the sun... fat chance.

However, I’m not writing to question the movie’s merit (it’s actually quite enjoyable) but rather to highlight some interesting moments – the types that make you say hmmm. There are a number of scenes where the protagonists basically have to draw straws to see who dies. Modern- (or future-) day Kohlberg’s dilemmas, you might say. The criterion used in these situations was: who is most/least valuable to the mission? You can guess who dies after they answer the question. It got me thinking about missions and our daily lives. Are we really living what we believe in? Do we really do what we say we should? Can people see it, without having to ask? If our Botswana Project Team had to deliver a text message to the moon that would save the world, would I be willing to sacrifice myself if I knew that it meant the mission would be successful? I think you catch my drift. I think it’s a challenge whose arch nemesis is selfishness. Or is it? Thoughts are always welcome.

Oh, and watch the movie.