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From 1966 to 1997, Peace Corps projects touched nearly all aspects of Botswana's development, including assignments as diverse as teacher trainers, nursing tutors, entomologists, game wardens, and small business advisors. Peace Corps Volunteers filled significant gaps in manpower and, in many cases, made singular contributions to Botswana's progress. There are many leading figures in Botswana today who had a Peace Corps teacher or counterpart in their past.
Due to Botswana's economic success, the Peace Corps program closed in 1997.
However, in 1998, the government declared HIV/AIDS a national crisis, and President Mogae dedicated his first five years in office to fighting HIV/AIDS, poverty, and unemployment. The government of Botswana has enlisted the aid of civil society, international agencies, governments, and volunteer organizations to help the Botswana people address the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In 2003, the Peace Corps returned to Botswana.
Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in Botswana
The Peace Corps entered the Republic of Botswana, formally known as Bechuanaland, in December 1966, only two months after the country gained independence from the United Kingdom. Botswana’s emergence as an independent nation heightened the need for a skilled labor force. This need provided a unique opportunity for the Peace Corps, which initiated a program aimed at helping the Batswana strengthen their ability to tackle their multiple development challenges. Over the next 31 years, more than 2,100 Peace Corps Volunteers served in Botswana. From 1966 to 1997, Peace Corps projects contributed to nearly every sector of Botswana’s development plan. Volunteers worked in education, health, the environment, urban planning, and economics. The largest group of Volunteers served as teachers in secondary schools. Volunteers filled significant gaps in the labor force and, in many cases, made singular contributions to the development of Botswana. There are scores of leading figures in Botswana who have a Peace Corps connection, be it as a co-worker, teacher, or friend.
Since its independence in 1966, Botswana has gone from one of the world’s poorest countries to one of the few developing nations to reach middle-income status. The country’s per capita income has grown rapidly. Life expectancy at birth increased from 48 years to over 60 years. Formal sector employment grew from 14,000 jobs to 120,000. Moreover, the nation’s infrastructure, including roads, power generation, schools, health facilities, and housing, increased dramatically.
Partly because of Botswana’s remarkable economic transition, the Peace Corps decided to withdraw from the country in 1997. It was with mixed emotions that the Peace Corps closed one of its earliest and most prolific programs. Peace Corps returned to Botswana in 2003 at the request of President Festus Mogae. His request was borne out of a stark recognition that AIDS is poised to erode the prodigious steady development advances realized in Botswana since independence.
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles
Main article: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles in Botswana
Your housing is contributed by the government of Botswana or other partner organizations. Because of the wide range of housing in Botswana, there is considerable variance in Volunteer living situations. You should come prepared to accept the Peace Corps’ minimum standard for housing— a single room that is clean and can be secured with a lock, with access to clean water and sanitary bathroom and cooking facilities. Electricity and piped-in water are not required by the Peace Corps.
Volunteers placed at the district level can expect fairly comfortable housing, which typically means a two-bedroom cement house with a kitchen, indoor plumbing, and electricity. Volunteers based at the village can expect housing to be more rustic, perhaps a room in a family dwelling in which services are limited to nonexistent. The government or partner organization is responsible for providing limited furnishings (a bed, a table, a chair, and some sort of closet space) and covering the cost of utilities (cooking gas, electricity, water, etc.).
Main article: Training in Botswana
The nine-week training program will provide you the opportunity to learn new skills and practice them as they apply to Botswana. You will receive training and orientation in language, cross-cultural communication, development issues, health and personal safety, and technical skills pertinent to your specific assignment. The skills you learn will serve as the foundation upon which you build your experience as a Volunteer in Botswana.
At the beginning of training, the training staff will outline the training goals and assessment criteria that each trainee has to reach before becoming a Volunteer. Evaluation of your performance during training is a continual process that is based on a dialogue between you and the training staff. The training director, along with the language, technical, and cross-cultural trainers, will work with you toward the highest possible achievement of training goals by providing you feedback throughout training. After successfully completing the pre-service training—as the majority of trainees do—you will be sworn-in as a Volunteer and make the final preparations for departure to your site.
Your Health Care and Safety
Main article: Health Care and Safety in Botswana
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. The Peace Corps in Botswana maintains a clinic with a full-time medical officer who takes care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are also available in Botswana at local hospitals that have been evaluated by the medical officer. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to a American-standard medical facility in the region or to the United States.
Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues
Main article: Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues in Botswana
In Botswana, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs will be judged in a cultural context very different from our own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Botswana.
Outside larger cities and towns in Botswana, residents of rural communities may have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Botswana are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.
- Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
- Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
- Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
Frequently Asked questions
Main article: FAQs about Peace Corps in Botswana
- How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Botswana?
- What is the electric current in Botswana?
- How much money should I bring?
- When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
- Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
- Do I need an international driver’s license?
- What should I bring as gifts for Batswana friends and my host family?
- Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
- How can my family contact me in an emergency?
- Can I call home from Botswana?
- Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
Main article: Packing List for Botswana
Use this packing list as an informal guide in making your own list. You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight restriction on baggage. And remember, because of Botswana’s proximity to South Africa, you can get almost everything you need here.
Note that while the climate is comfortable for the greater part of the year, houses do not have heat, making the winters colder than you might expect. Do not bring any camouflage or military-style clothing to wear—your time is much too valuable to spend detained at a police checkpoint.
- General Clothing
- For Men
- For Women
- Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
Peace Corps News
Contributions to the Botswana Country Fund will support Volunteer and community projects that will take place in Botswana. These projects support reducing transmission of HIV and minimizing the impact of HIV and AIDS on individuals and communities.
- Volunteers who served in Botswana
- Inspector General Reports
- Pre-Departure Checklist
- List of resources for Botswana