Posts Tagged ‘Botswana’

The Botswana Effect

August 5, 2015 | Aretha, POL, WUSC, Botswana, Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network

It’s over. This crazy ride of stumbling my way through a different way of life on the opposite side of the globe has come to an end. Looking back at this journey, I honestly did not expect to get as much out of this experience as I did. Spending three months in the developing world has taught me a lot about the way the world works in terms of the relationships between the “haves” and the “have-nots” or in Botswana’s case the “seemingly have-nots”. My eyes have been opened in a way that no 2 or 3 week vacation could have managed to do. It has been such a privilege to work and truly live like a Motswana, appreciating and diving headfirst into the culture, all the while trying to process and understand it. Proudly through this process, the Setswana culture has been ingrained in me to the point where I have been fervently touting it off as my own, in my heart I truly feel like a Motswana. Botswana has become a home to me, my heart is there, and “home is where the heart is”. It’s crazy to remember my first week in Botswana, I would sulk and lay in bed, completely out of my comfort zone, not wanting to be there and thinking I made a mistake in coming. Fast forward three months when I had to begrudgingly drag myself onto the plane with my sunglasses on so no one could see the tears in my eyes, knowing that I was leaving the country a completely different person than the one I came as. The transformation I have gone through is incredible.

In my time here, Botswana has given me the richest “hands-on” learning experience I have ever received in my life. I have learned so much from being here and working with my host organization. My eyes have been opened to the world of small NGOs working in fields that aren’t the most popular and through that I’ve seen what it’s like to be the underdog in nearly every sense–working in Substance Abuse in an African country as opposed to more “popular causes” like HIV/AIDS and Poverty Reduction has changed my outlook on a lot of processes in the field of development and forced me to getting into the pattern of brainstorming solutions rather than merely “accepting the problems in the system”. I learned how to truly advocate for something and the importance of passion and purpose in what you choose as your profession in order to truly shine—a lesson that has come in perfect timing as I prepare to enter into my fourth year. On the flip side of this, I also learned the importance of rest and of taking care of myself—an important lesson being in North America where “the deadline” can often seem to precede one’s wellbeing in a ranking of importance.

Overall, I think the most important thing I have learned in my time here is that my “bubble” of comfortable life in Canada is not the “bubble” the rest of the world abides in, and since that “bubble” has been popped, I am free to think big thoughts, have big ideas and dream big dreams, because I know after this experience that my “big picture thinking” can do this world a lot of good. I love Botswana, I am so grateful for it and the people that I have met here. I know that being here for 3 months I am susceptible to to “The Botswana Effect” as I have coined it, a phenomenon where in which a person that comes for a short time such as mine is prone to come back, because once you’ve been to Botswana—you know it’s worth coming back to. And boy, do I know that it’s worth coming back to!

**Also, last post I told you I would update you on our week long trip to Zambia and Zimbabwe and I don’t skim out on my promises! Our trip was fabulous! After an 11 hour bus ride, a trek on foot across the Botswana/Zimbabwe border and an hour long taxi ride we found ourselves in the beautiful town of Victoria Falls. We went to see Victoria Falls from both Zimbabwe and Zambia (as the falls are right on the border of the two countries) and I tell you, who knew water falling down some rocks could be so incredible! I cried as soon as I saw the falls, it was such a glorious sight, and a reminder of how incredible this earth is! The four of us WUSC interns that travelled together also took advantage of the presence of the Zambezi River (the fourth largest in Africa) that flowed in the region as we white water rafted on it, bungee jumped into it, zip lined over it, fished on it, took a beautiful sunset cruise over it (where in which we saw crocodiles, a family of hippos, and a huge herd of elephants—I definitely cried again that night). It was so cool seeing a different part of Southern Africa (equipped with the ever beautiful “Southern African sunset”) and it sparked my interest in travelling through even more countries on this glorious continent! I am so grateful for my time here and all I have gained in being here, I can’t wait to return and experience more, learn more and find more parts of this world to fall in love with.

Gosiame, and all the best.


July 21, 2015 | Aretha, POL, WUSC, Botswana, Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network

Dumelang! (Hi, everyone)

It’s week 9 in Botswana. NINE. Can you believe it? Why has the time gone so quickly? Can it stop please? Before coming on this internship reading previous faculty blog posts, I remember the same sentiment being expressed at this point in the internship. “Just one more month, please!” I would read over and over again, from intern to intern and country to country. “The three months is never enough”, “the time goes by too quickly”. Although, as of right now I find myself in the middle of missing home and those new Smores Frappuccinos at Starbucks and not ever wanting to leave the people that I have met in Botswana, the local food I (too) frequently enjoy or my host mother’s Rottweiler named Julie that I now call mine (and am completely in love with). This tension between wanting to be home and wanting to stay here has definitely been leveling me out these past couple weeks and in a way has helped me live in the moment.

Life working at my host organization BOSASNet (Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network) has been incredible. As conversations with my colleagues are more and more frequently laced with statements of “Eish! We’re going to really miss you around here” and “Can you please stay forever” I am forced to reflect on all that this organization has done for me. I know I gushed about them in my last post but I can never gush enough about them, they have continued to see strengths in me that I haven’t seen in myself and work with them—for example I am now the regular presenter on BOSASNet’s radio slot on one of Gaborone’s (the city we’re located in) most popular radio stations. How cool is that? They saw strength in my presenting skills and they gave me an opportunity to work with it and strengthen it even more! And now, since that door has been opened, who knows you could be hearing my voice on a radio near you! This is only one example of the many doors my organization has been able to open for me. I can’t wait to get home and beef up my resume because there is a lot to add to it after this internship! I didn’t think I would be getting so rich of a work experience and I have to thank the Faculty of Social Sciences, WUSC—My Canadian Host NGO, and BOSASNet because together they’ve really given me an experience of a lifetime.

With just over two weeks left in my internship, I have so much to jam pack into my time left here. To think, I haven’t taken the opportunity to travel and see more of Southern Africa yet! Luckily, I will finally be taking leave to go with the other WUSC interns in Botswana to go to Zimbabwe! I’m incredibly excited to get to see yet another part of this incredible continent, and us WUSC interns in Botswana have been working incredibly hard, we deserve to have a little fun! I can’t wait to tell you all about it in my next (and unfortunately last) blog post—well hopefully I’ll be able to stop crying enough to be able to write a blog post in the first place!

Gosiame (Go well) Everyone!

Basking in Botswana!

July 7, 2015 | Aretha, POL, WUSC, Botswana, Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network


It is so surreal to be writing this blog post—like the very ones I would read in anticipation for this internship—in Gaborone (Hab-or-oh-nee), Botswana! I have been living, learning and interning as a Resource Mobilization and Marketing Assistant for BOSASNet (Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network) for the better part of 6 weeks, and what an incredible 6 weeks it has been!

Upon arrival in Botswana, I struggled with adjusting to the new way of life, although it’s not too much different from my day-to-day life in Canada, the differences that did exist (however small some of them were) hit me like a ton of bricks and it was difficult to digest (I mean, there was no Starbucks in sight! Hello!!). Luckily, my “hard adjustment” phase passed very quickly as I had realized I had too much to learn, see and do in Botswana and moping around would take away from the precious time I had to do it! And boy, have I learned and seen a lot in my time here so far! There are so many things about this country and more so—its people that I haven’t really seen before neither in my life in Canada or my previous travel outside of Canada such as the widespread docile nature of the people, the homogeneity of values/belief systems,  and language (almost 80% of Batswana speak the same tribal language—Setswana), the extent that young Batswana are development minded and want to contribute to seeing their country succeed is incredible (the percentage of those that study abroad in the first world and return is remarkably high) and all these are very few of the observations I have made during my short time here. Being in Botswana has been enlightening on an even further dimension for me—being an African myself; although I have roots in Nigeria (a country quite different from Botswana), I have learned a lot by just being on this continent, comparing and contrasting views that I have as a Nigerian to views that Batswana have and seeing the ways in which they see eye to eye, the common threads that can be found. All these observations and more have been enlightening to say the very least, I can only hope that I am growing from what I have seen and learned here.

Although exploring and observing the way of Batswana outside of the workplace has taught me a lot, it hasn’t been the only source of my newfound knowledge as I have been here, my host organization BOSASNet has also taught me about myself, about the country and most directly, about the devastating effects of substance abuse. BOSASNet has my heart. This organization is the only one of its kind in the country and their work is crucial to this nation. BOSASNet runs 3 central programs: An outpatient rehabilitation centre facilitated by 6 substance abuse counsellors and 1 clinical program manager, a training program in which they train students to become certified substance abuse counsellors (I have recently completed a course in their program), lastly they run an outreach program in which they coordinate and facilitate presentations, events for corporations and schools among other organizations as a means to educate about and prevent substance abuse in the county. Their mission is to see a substance abuse free Botswana and they are working full force to achieve that goal. This organization has provided an amazing learning environment for me. They have given me opportunities to write for newspapers and be on the radio, and even give presentations and facilitate an event for a large corporation in Botswana.  I am humbled by the way they give me a say in affairs that affect their organization, they don’t treat me like a “stereotypical ‘get my coffee’ intern” (although there have been a lot of “get my coffee” jokes around the office) but they treat me like I am a part of their family, and I definitely feel like I have gained a family here in Botswana. I have been able to ask questions, grow, laugh, make mistakes, laugh some more—about my mistakes, and most importantly learn, because hey, that’s what I’m here for right?

All in all, so far my experience in Botswana has been one for the history books, and I still have so much time left here! I can’t wait to see what excitement is waiting for me with each coming day.

Mid-Mandate Update

October 21, 2013 | Jonathan, MDG, WUSC, Botswana, NCONGO

For the past 6 weeks I have been living in Maun, Botswana and interning with Ngamiland Council of Non-Governmental Organizations (NCONGO). NCONGO was established in 2008 after NGO’s in the Ngamiland region recognized that there was a need for an overarching body to provide support and assistance to NGO’s in the region. NCONGO’s main roles are to provide training, networking opportunities and financial assistance to its member organizations and NCONGO also assists with programs such as the Maatla Project which strengthens the capacity of civil society organizations to better address the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

NCONGO has over 50 members and they are diverse in size and mandate as they are involved in many sectors including Health and HIV/AIDS, Conservation and Livelihoods, Orphans and Vulnerable Children and Gender and Disabilities. NCONGO plays an important role in bringing these diverse organizations together to inspire collaboration and learning and ultimately provide better services to the Ngamiland population.

My time with NCONGO has been a great learning experience and I have assisted the organization in a variety of areas. My main role has been to meet with stakeholders involved with Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) and determine if there are areas where NCONGO can enhance its role and build the capacity of organizations involved in CBNRM. CBNRM is a framework that aims to create sustainable development and poverty alleviation by creating wage employment for local communities and revenue for Community Based Organizations (CBOs). CBNRM was established after the failure of top-down approaches to resource conservation and the goal of CBNRM is to give communities ownership over their natural resources. I have met with a variety of stakeholders so far including village Chiefs, community trusts and private sector organizations and I am beginning to develop opportunities for NCONGO to enhance its role in CBNRM and to build the capacities of its member organizations.

I have also visited community members from different rural villages (Sankuyo, Mababe and Khwai) that are involved in CBNRM. As part of CBNRM, villages receive financial compensation for having Joint Venture Agreements or land lease agreements with safari companies. These agreements allow safari companies to use the land that has been demarcated to the community to establish camps and run photographic safaris. The companies in turn, employ members from the community, providing invaluable income.

These villages all have trusts that use the revenue from the Joint Venture Agreements or Land Leases to provide services and complete projects for the community. The village of Khwai for example, uses its trust revenue to provide housing allowances, scholarships and transportation to Maun for community members to shop or attend appointments. The Trust also employs people from the village and builds houses for the elderly.

Khwai Community Trust has also built a Kgotla, which is a public meeting place where community topics are discussed, laws are enacted and decisions are made based on community consensus. The Kgotla is an institution that existed before colonialism and continues to exist in modern day Botswana. Kgotla’s often act as a customary court where grievances are heard and rulings are made, often by village Chiefs. Botswana has both customary and common law courts and customary law verdicts can be appealed and heard in a common law court.

Khwai is located in a game rich area between two national parks, The Moremi Game Reserve and Chobe National Park. It is common to see elephants, lions or leopards around the village and they sometimes target the villagers dogs. In the past the village earned some income from hunting but hunting was recently banned by the government in an effort to further conserve the countries wildlife. One major issue with the village is that it does not have a school or medical clinic. As a result students are away from the families for months at a time because they go to school 500km away. If their is a medical emergency in the village community members have to travel to nearby villages or to Maun.

Overall, my time here in Botswana has been an excellent learning experience and I am looking forward to contributing further to NCONGO’s mandate. Aside from the internship I have enjoyed Botswana’s more laid back lifestyle and I am beginning to get used to the 40 degree weather. I am not looking forward to returning to Ottawa’s frigid winter temperatures but for now I will do my best to enjoy the sunsets.

So it Begins

September 17, 2013 | Jonathan, MDG, WUSC, Botswana, NCONGO

After months of preparation, several pre-departure training sessions and over a day of travel I have finally arrived in Botswana and have been here for almost a week! 4 other volunteers and I had 4 days of training in Gaborone, the capital, and then we drove up to Maun, where my internship will take place. The drive from Gaborone to Maun was eventful as we got a flat tire at the beginning and had to stop for plenty of cows, donkeys and horses throughout the trip (there are more cows than people in Botswana); we even had to stop to allow a group of baboons cross the road! On our journey we saw many traditional huts and villages as well as some signs of Botswana’s economic advancement.

Botswana is a fascinating country. English and Setswana are the country’s official languages and Setswana is understood by 78-90% of the population. Botswanan people are quite friendly and they usually greet people in Setswana by saying Dumela (hello) and wena le kae (how are you?). After its independence in 1966, Botswana was one of the poorest countries in the world, however since diamonds were discovered in the 70s Botswana’s economy has drastically grown. Botswana has a stable democracy and is now considered to be an upper middle-income country and as a result many international aid agencies are leaving. On paper this appears to be logical, but Botswana still has several issues that require effective local and international assistance. 25% of Botswana’s population is infected with HIV/AIDS, the second highest ranking in the world, and Botswana has high rates of inequality (20% of Botswana’s population has 60% of the income) and poverty (20.3% of the population is considered extremely poor). Botswana also has a need to diversify its economy as diamonds are expected to peak in 2017 and are forecasted to be depleted by 2029; diamonds currently account for 60-70% of Botswana’s export earnings.

My main goals for this internship are to serve and learn and I hope to contribute and work hard in my short time here. This week I will be meeting staff from NCONGO and will begin my mandate. I’m looking forward to better understanding my role with NCONGO and the impact that they have in liaising and providing grants and training to 44 NGO’s in the Ngamiland region of Botswana.