The United States Peace Corps has been a steadfast partner in Botswana’s development for well over 50 years. Peace Corps entered Botswana in 1966, just two months after independence. Many leaders recall the positive influence that a Volunteer in their home community had on their lives. Peace Corps currently have over 130 American Volunteers serving throughout Botswana – in well over 100 different towns and villages.
Volunteers generally live and work in rural, underserved communities and serve for 27 months. Since 2003, our work has focused on HIV/AIDS and improving schools in rural areas in collaboration with our government partners: Ministry of Local Government & Rural Development, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education & Skills Development, and the National AIDS Coordinating Agency.
Volunteers are placed in one of four main assignments, including:
- Local Government Offices: Assisting in coordination of HIV/AIDS-related prevention, care, and treatment work with District AIDS Coordinator and Social & Community Development offices.
- Clinic and Health Teams: Strengthening community outreach of clinics and District Health Management Teams and support improvements to data collection, analysis, and supply management.
- Non-Governmental Organizations: Building capacity of local organizations addressing HIV/AIDS and needs of orphans and vulnerable children.
- Life Skills: Supporting Guidance and Counselling departments to infuse life skills into existing academics; Developing student programming through libraries and clubs
Americans apply to Peace Corps and undergo a competitive selection process. Criteria for placement in Botswana include: motivation, required skills, timing of availability for placement, medical and security clearance. In Botswana, Volunteers are an average of 30 years old, and have ranged from 21 to 83 years old. All have college degrees and many have graduate degrees (e.g. in law, medicine, nursing, teaching, public health).
The first two and a half months of a volunteer’s service consists of intensive training in Setswana, cross-cultural understanding, HIV/AIDS, and capacity building. During this time, they live with Batswana host families to learn local cultures to allow them to better integrate into their communities. At the end of this pre-service training, they are sworn in by the US Ambassador and proceed to their assigned site.
Arriving two months after independence, volunteers originally worked as teachers, health specialists, city and infrastructure planners, and agriculture extension workers. Over the next 31 years close to 2,000 Peace Corps Volunteers contributed to Botswana’s transformation, notably in the areas of education, health care, small enterprise development and natural resource management.
Peace Corps withdrew from Botswana in 1997. The decision to “graduate” was based on a combination of factors mostly linked to the fact that Botswana had reached a “middle income country” status – whose development challenges were not as pressing as those of other countries. Botswana was a development “success” story.
In 2003, Peace Corps returned to Botswana at the request of President Mogae in 2001 due to the severity of the AIDS epidemic and it’s potential to reverse Botswana’s prolific development gains. To strengthen the nation’s response to the health crisis, Peace Corps has partnered with the Government of Botswana and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).