Posts Tagged ‘volunteer’

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.

Pilipinas, Maraming Salamat (Philippines, Thank You Very Much)

August 6, 2013 | Czarina, DVM, AFS Internculture Canada, Philippines, Gawad Kalinga (GK), Program Development Assistant

I am still at a loss for words about how to relay my Philippine internship experience.

First, how does one express that sense of peace from “coming home”? As a Filipino-Canadian going back to the Philippines after ten years, I had initially thought that the cultural integration would be a breeze and that this experience will rekindle the Filipino in me. My experience was beyond my expectations! While the language barrier and the “taste bud shock” was indeed nonexistent, I still had to adjust to culture differences. In an odd way, I realized I was both more Filipino and more Canadian than I had initially thought. I’ve “come home” not to any sense of nationalistic pride, but rather to a deeper understanding of what it means to be a global citizen.

Also, how does one express that sense of admiration and awe that calls one to action? Through Gawad Kalinga, I’ve met Filipinos in various sector of Philippine society–as well as international volunteers. I’ve met professionals with day jobs, development practitioners, volunteer teachers from poor communities, university students from elite universities, out of school youth, urban poor children, and the list goes on. While every person I’ve met has their own story and has their own experience encountering poverty in the Philippines, what gets me is how much hope these people have for their country. They believe so much in the people they serve and work with that even though they may be faced with financial challenges and time constraints, they still manage to make time to work towards progress that “leaves no one behind.” And while the general pronoun “they” does not speak for all Filipinos, I’ve met enough who’ve inspired me to believe that “inclusive development” can happen and to thus look for opportunities to be a part of inclusive development in Canada.

Finally, how does one express that sense of confusion of knowing more but understanding that one knows less? If there is anything that this experience taught me is that no amount of class lectures, pre-internship orientation and even first-hand experience will ever fully prepare you for the world of practicing international development. I learnt I needed to be flexible and always ready to ask questions because the world I work in does not exist in a vacuum: every one (really, every one) is contributing to and changing the environment I work in even as I type (and you read) right now and there is just so much I don’t–and can not– know!

So, Philippines, thank you. I don’t yet know the full extent as to how much this experience has helped me grow professionally, but I do know that personally I have grown more emotionally mature and perhaps more ready to be a part of this globalizing world.