Washington — Former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush visited U.S. Peace Corps volunteers at a local health care center in Botswana July 5 and saw the work they are doing to care for people affected by HIV/AIDS.
The Gabane Community Home-Based Care Center, a community project founded in 1997, has provided care to hundreds of patients over the last 15 years.
"I absolutely love working here," said Peace Corps volunteer Tija Danzig of Seattle, Washington, who collaborates closely with the center's staff to strengthen operations and services. "The staff are wonderful and totally dedicated to providing love and education to all the children who come here for services."
The Bushes were greeted by a group of local traditional dancers, the village chief, the center's co-founder, Mr. Motlhalamme, and Peace Corps Country Director Tim Hartman. After the dance performance, they joined a group of 20 Peace Corps volunteers and staff members to learn more about the center and the work being done by the volunteers throughout Botswana.
After meeting with the volunteers, the Bushes joined the children as they sang several songs in both Setswana and English. President Bush then read a book to the children. They thanked him by singing "Happy Birthday" as a cake was brought out and presented him with a birthday card that they had signed.
The Gabane Community Home-Based Care Center originally focused on providing home care to those with HIV/AIDS, but later branched out to support a broad range of population groups that have been affected by HIV and AIDS.
The center's major focus today is operating a preschool program for orphans and vulnerable children while empowering people to live positively with HIV and AIDS, with the vision of one day eradicating HIV/AIDS from the community.
The preschool program currently supports 41 children aged 2 to 6. The children are not only learning to read, to speak in English and to do basic math, but they are also learning important social skills that they are often deprived of learning in their home environment. Peace Corps volunteer Danzig is assigned to work full time at the center.
More than 2,100 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Botswana since the program was established in 1966, and 120 volunteers are now serving in the country. Volunteers work to address HIV/AIDS in the areas of health, community development and education. They are trained and work in Setswana and Sekalanga.