In May 2014, Emily Brouwer from the Northwest Regional office of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, along with Northwest Regional Board Member Marimo Berk, traveled to Botswana with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF for a week-long field visit. Traveling with a group of 12 total visitors, Emily and Marimo were also accompanied by several UNICEF Botswana staff members. Their immersive activities spanned five days, in which the team participated in various programs focusing on a range of pressing issues such as HIV/AIDS awareness, health promotion, and child development.
May 12th marked the beginning of their visit. After hopping on a domestic plane to Kasane, they visited several UNICEF-supported Youth Friendly Service Centers, gaining insight into the service needs, service providers, and youth access to these services offered in Botswana. The following day focused on child and maternal health and nutrition, during which Emily and Marimo visited various health centers and clinics where mothers brought their children to learn about nutrition, vaccinations, and overall health vulnerabilities. Later in the week, Emily and Marimo travelled south to the capital city Gaborone where they visited numerous clinics that focused specifically on HIV/AIDS awareness and treatment for adolescents.
The group’s visits to both Kasane and Gaborone featured programs and initiatives focusing on the orphans, vulnerable children, and street children of Botswana. The group traveled to various communities and attended village meetings - “kgotlas” - conducted by the Chief of each village. Each kgotla focused on a different children’s issue, such as child health, birth registration, and out of school education activities and supportive services. The group also observed a Street Children Education Research project supported by UNICEF, which culminated in an extensive community discussion on children’s issues, education needs, and workable strategies for equitable education.
One of the youth centers that the group visited in Gaborone had a strong focus on music and the arts, and on the day of the visit, the youth put on a performance for the visiting group with marimbas they had built themselves. Moved and inspired by the experience, Emily found this to be a “unique and useful way for the children to recover as they were processing the traumatic experiences they had been through.”
On the last afternoon, the group attended an HIV-Awareness gathering - “Wise Up”- that hosted kids of all ages and their parents to learn about HIV through interactive activities such as theater groups, music, dancing and slam poetry.
Emily, Marimo, and the entire U.S. Fund for UNICEF delegation left Botswana inspired and moved by the change UNICEF has brought to the children, mothers, and communities they visited. For more information about UNICEF’s work in Botswana, please visit: http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/botswana.html