4 March 2008

Botswana: President Recognises Peace Corps Role

Gaborone — President Festus Mogae has praised US Peace Corps volunteers for contributing to excellent outcomes in the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programmes and for helping to pilot the Life Skills curriculum roll-out.

Speaking at the occasion to mark the 'close of service workshop' in preparation for their departure in May and June, he said; "These volunteers worked directly with district HIV/AIDS coordinators to build capacity in the implementation as well as in the mobilisation of community led responses." The US Peace Corps volunteers have since 2003, contributed significantly in the process of identifying appropriate and effective programming areas that focus on HIV/AIDS, said President Mogae.

For her part, Peace Corps Country Director, Ms Peggy McClure, said the idea of peace corps re-establishing its programme came about through a request from President Mogae to US President George Bush in 2001 and was directly related to the severity of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the region. She noted that Botswana is one of the two peace corps countries where all volunteers must be placed in projects addressing HIV/AIDS.

"Volunteers have worked with their communities in far places such as Maun, Ghanzi, Semolale, Goodhope, New Xade, Karakubis and Seronga,"she said.

Ms McClure said the volunteers raised funds for poultry projects, alcohol awareness campaigns and driver training.

In addition, she mentioned that in Nata, the village blog stimulated by a peace corps volunteer has educated people around the world about the issues of HIV/AIDS in Botswana and raised funds for the community.

Furthermore, she explained that through the Zebras4Life-Test4Life campaign, volunteers have helped Tebelopele and the Zebras stimulate interest in screening during many community events.

At the same occasion, a volunteer Ms Marni Wilpert who is based in Mokubilo explained in Setswana that she enjoyed working with the community especially in the area of adolescence sexual health.

She said she finds the task enriching and worthwhile as she deals with old people who do not understand English. "I think government should help in introducing basic literacy to old people as this would go a long way in removing communication barriers in the fight against HIV/AIDS," she said. BOPA

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