Saturday, January 24, 2009

All about Botswana:

So it’s about time that I brief you all about Botswana, the country that I will be calling home for the summer.
Botswana is in the south-central part of Africa, bordering South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia. In size, Botswana is about double that of the state of Arizona.
Despite the fact that most of the country is desert, Botswana has become one of the most popular places in Africa to travel, with many of the most exotic African animals making Botswana their home.
With some slightly more positive statistics in comparison to other developing countries, Botswana has an infant mortality rate of 44/1000 [imagine that in comparison to Canada’s infant mortality rate of 4.6/1000]. The average life expectancy has reached 50.1 years. Within the continent of Africa, Botswana does maintain a good literacy rate of 81.2%.
In terms of communication, there is good news! The official language of Botswana is English! However, there is some bad news... only 2% of the population speak it. The more common language among Botswanans is Setswana, with 78% of the peoples speaking it.

“Although Botswana is rich in diamonds, it has high unemployment and stratified socioeconomic classes... regardless; Botswana remains one of the wealthiest and most stable countries on the continent. Although Botswana’s economic outlook remains strong, the devastation that AIDS has caused threatens to destroy the country’s future. In 2001, Botswana had the highest rate of HIV infection in the world (22% of the people). With the help of international donors, however, it launched an ambitious national campaign that provided free antiviral drugs to anyone who needed them, and by March 2004, Botswana’s infection rate had dropped significantly! BUT, with 37.5% of the population infected, the country now remains on the brink of catastrophe.”

Without going into too much information regarding my job, I will be working extensively with “orphaned” youth, so I would like to take this opportunity to discuss this terrible phenomenon that we see in Botswana. Orphaned youth are those children who are left parent-less and role model-less through the death of their parents (most commonly caused by HIV AIDS). These youth not only have the burden of attempting to raise themselves on their own, but also their younger siblings. Left with no money, school is often not an option for them. Left with the memories of watching their parents suffer, motivation to even get out of bed is hard to find. We see an effect where almost half of the households are being ran by children between the ages of 9 and 15, and with an HIV infection rate as high at 37.5%, Botswana is drowning in this horrible effect.

So I will end this introduction to Botswana there... I am sorry that this blog may have a negative note attached to it, however I want to paint an accurate picture of the realities that the people of Botswana face. I also hope that, while these facts are excruciating to read, you realize that things can be done to change that! So again, I encourage you to continue to follow my blog to see what I will be doing, and what you can be doing, to help out!

Until next time,


PS. All of the Beyond Border students will be writing blogs on their experiences as well, so please, Please, PLEASE check out what they have to say!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

And so it begins!

Hi all!

Thanks for stopping by my blog space... this is a first for me, so please be patient with me as I work to get this stuff figured out!

I'll start by introducing myself a little:
I am completing an honours degree in Mathematics at the same time as I earn my Bachelors of Education. Science, and math in particular, have always been my strong suits. Along with my strong hope to "make a difference" with my choice of career, the Math-teaching option offered through the University of Waterloo and Queen's University seemed like a natural selection for me.

Perhaps more importantly than academics, my entire life I have been extremely interested in other cultures and ways of life that differ from the traditional Canadian household. In addition, human rights and acting as a responsible global citizen have been of great importance as I make my mark on this planet. Both in high school and in my decision of which university to attend, the ability to find ways to contribute in order to make that bit of difference has always played a key role, whether it be on a large global scale or on a small community level.

Ultimately, I found the perfect program that would allow me to pursue both my areas of interest. St. Jerome's University, a partnering school with the University of Waterloo, offers degrees in Mathematics, and more importantly, an international service-learning program called Beyond Borders. Through international partners, student's will spend three months in a developing country, living with a family and working in a community on a variety of projects.

Fortunately, I have been accepted into the program. In the first week of May, I will be on my 24+ hour flight to Mochudi, Botswana to start my 3-month adventure! (More to come on my placement in later blogs!)

Having been in the program for over 4 months now, I have been able to see why this program is truly special and one of a kind. As a requirement to the program, last term I took a course in Current Ethical Issues. This program was designed to develop and understand the theory behind programs such as Beyond Borders. As a follow up to the ethics course, I am now enrolled in Justice, Peace and Development, which gives me the opportunity to put the theory from last term into practice in our own community.

I am thrilled at the opportunity to begin volunteering at The Working Centre in downtown Kitchener. I feel that this experience will both help me in preparation for volunteering abroad, as well as provide me the means to continue such work upon my return from Botswana. (More to come on my volunteer placements in later blogs too!)

So I guess that wraps up this introductory blog. I really hope you continue to follow me through this wild journey I have embarked on. It is my hope that through the blogs, I am able to effectively reflect on my experiences both in the program and at the Working Centre and better understand the theory of ethics. I also hope that I can show you that no matter the walk of life, or faculty, or interests and hobbies you may have, so long as you have an interest in putting your education to use in the pursuit of a more peaceable world, you should GO FOR IT!

OH - and I encourage you to leave comments/questions and anything else for me.

Thanks again for reading,