When I was told by Skillshare that I was going to Botswana, I was told that the main issue I would be working on was HIV/AIDS. At that time, I knew hardly anything about HIV/AIDS. I am embarrassed to say, AIDS was something I’d only ever known through casual mentions in school, usually when you wanted to cuss someone for being ‘diseased’. Other than that, they were just vaguely some horrible diseases…‘something to do with STI’s and all that’. So when I read the email about where I was going and what I was doing – a country I knew nothing about and an issue I knew nothing about – I was glad. I was obviously going to learn a lot.
After doing some searches on the internet, I read on their website that 1 in 4 people were living with the disease. It was the second worst hit globally and described as an epidemic. Wow… I thought to myself. This was exactly what I had thrown my name into the hat for. One of the main reasons why I wanted to volunteer – why I have ever volunteered – was because I want to help people. And so I was glad, privileged even, that I was given the opportunity to be put in a situation where help seemed to be needed so much. I made efforts to read up on it, educate myself and fundraise as well as I could in to start my journey with a real difference. I left expecting to see the dramatic scenes of Africa like on Sport Relief or Red Nose Day, images from a documentary that would move me even more first hand. I left harbouring the desire to be shaken, to be moved, stirred so deeply that it would push me even further into being the kind of man that I want to be. I wanted to be humbled. I wanted to be shocked, brought to tears even – so that I could genuinely understand and really experience how fortunate my life really is. After all, the truth isn’t the truth for you, until you experience it first hand. Otherwise it’s just someone else’s truth.
Then I got here. Reality.Botswana is a country of 1.5 – 2 million people. There are definite problems no doubt, but not as in your faceas I first imagined. Seeing those statistics of ONE IN FOUR, written in capital letters on my fundraising page and across the internet, I led myself into thinking that the situation was really bad. People were really suffering, dying and they needed help. Maybe it was just what I wanted to believe. Now I realise though, those sorts of scenes, the kind I expected, passed through here about 10-12 years ago in the 90’s. Don’t get me wrong, HIV/AIDS is a big problem, one that I will most definitely spend a blog post going into. But so is alcoholism, ‘passion’ killings and gender based violence. So is beauracracy, inefficiency of local government, corruption, public services, drinking and driving. So is the problem of materialism, of young people losing sense of their rich heritage and identity, of people sleeping around and of people not being honest and faithful.More and more I just realise, damn… We really aren’t that different. In fact, me and you, we’re the same. Our problems look different but share the same roots. The same problems we have here, the same things I have seen back home, I see so many similarities here.
Contrary to what some may have thought, including a small part of me, I haven’t been bombarded with suffering, disease and death at every corner. Instead I’ve been faced with normal daily life, and with people struggling to get on with daily life in the face of different problems – violence, alcohol, HIV/AIDS, materialism, misogyny etc – just like back home.
It just makes me think, I can do so much more back home. Where I know the problems first hand, I’ve lived and grown up in those problems. I could do so many of the things I do here, back home and do an even better job because I understand things so much better.
We have one week left in our placement town, Maun and I really feel like I don’t want to leave. I feel like we have only just got going and really found our stride with everything my group has been working on and it is being cut short. Three months just isn’t enough time. We have really become a part of the local community, and each time I greet a friendly face in the street or receive a helping hand from our neighbours and friends, it just makes me want to stay even more. There are so many things I love about life here. There are so many things I love about the people I have met here. There are so many more things I can think of that I could do to help the community, to benefit the country – I get so passionate about the issues here (Hope Mission, Women’s rights, HIV/AIDS, Alcohol Abuse) that I find it hard to just let go. I find it hard to accept the finite time we have. It makes me appreciate the three months so much more.
It will be so hard to leave.
I’ve learnt a lot about myself, about the world, about development and I realise everyday that I could be doing so much more back home. I have so much more I can give.