Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)

16 May 2006

Botswana: Former Peace Corps Volunteers Reminisce

American Ambassador and former Peace Corps volunteer Katherine Canavan says the Peace Corp (PC) volunteer organisation has made tremendous contributions to the development not only of the recipient countries but of the United States as well. She was speaking at a panel discussion held last Thursday at the Southern Africa Trade Hub in Gaborone under the theme: "What the Peace Corps Meant To Me".

The panel discussion organised by the US Embassy and Botswana Peace Corp service was part of the double commemoration of the 45th Anniversary of the international Peace Corp and the 35th Anniversary of the local leg of the volunteer service organisation. Speaking to a small crowd of former volunteers, government and NGO representatives, media practitioners and members of the public, Canavan said volunteer organisations such as the PC play an important role in inculcating a spirit of togetherness among communities and people across the world.

Among the panellists of former volunteers were Ken Ames (Trade Hub), Sandra Johnson (BOTUSA), Keith Kline (USAID/Regional Centre for Southern Africa), Michelle Schaan (Botswana Harvard Project) and the moderator Ken Puvak (Peace Corps Botswana). The panellists exchanged anecdotes from their years in the service. Canavan shared with the audience colourful memories of her years in rural, the then Zaire now - DRC - in the early 1970s. Ames d escribed the life in the serene island of Palau, Micronesia during his service years from 1985 to 1987. "I learned a lot about life in that island. I enjoyed the sunsets and the beaches. I learned to communicate in the language of the island and I dare anyone to test me," he joked.

Johnson who served as a teacher at Ramotswa's Kagiso Senior Secondary School shared her fond memories of life in the village before the rapid changes that have occurred in the lives of the villagers. Shaan who taught at Etsha 6 village in Ngamiland remembered how she used to love bogogo from the big pots of the school. "People would look at this white young woman holding a big chunk walking through the school yard," she said as the audience cracked in laughter. Peace Corp volunteers in Botswana have served in different areas such as education and HIV/AIDS.

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