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Summer Service -- Learning in Botswana

For the first time last summer World University Service of Canada (WUSC) and the Trent International Program (TIP) offered a Summer Service-Learning placement in Botswana, Africa. Three Trent University students took part in the placement program.

Students who participate in the program are placed under the supervision of WUSC mentor for a period of six to 12 weeks between May and July.

The placements available include House of Hope orphan care centre in Palapye, Mokolod Nature Reserve, Camphill or Dule Sentle orphanages in Otse Village, Jessica's Project, a teen centre, in Otse Village or the Gaborone YWCA.

For more information, or for an application, visit

The application deadline for summer 2006 placements is March 1, 2006.


Photo 1: Maris Capozzi with one of the House of Hope studentsHouse of Hope

"I would do it again a hundred times."

Marisa Capozzi, a third-year development studies and history major, speaks emphatically about her work at an orphan care centre as part of a summer placement in Botswana.

Ms. Capozzi took part in the World University Service of Canada (WUSC)/Trent International Program (TIP) Summer Service Learning Placement program and spent May 15 to July 2 in Palapye, Botswana.

She did her placement at House of Hope. All of the 60 children at House of Hope have lost at least one parent to AIDS. Some of the children are HIV positive themselves and they are all between the ages of two and six.

"I went to focus more on the development of child-centred learning for teachers," said Capozzi. There are two teachers and one teaching assistant at House of Hope.

"I worked with the teachers to develop and further the children's education. They have some disadvantages going into elementary school so it's important to develop their education at the pre-school level."

This included playing and interacting with the children on their level, said Ms. Capozzi.

"The teachers didn't know much about that method of learning. In Botswana education is very serious and rule-based. I tried to make it more fun for the children."

Ms. Capozzi developed the Polaroid Project during her time there. Working with five children a day, she took Polaroid photos of each individual child and placed the photos on star shaped cut-outs. The children were given crayons and stickers to decorate their star any way they wished. At the end of the project, all the stars were posted for everyone to see.

"Working with the children on this gave them some one-on-one attention – they are often missing that," said Ms. Capozzi.

Fourth-year Trent student Jennifer Brown also did her placement at House of Hope and was involved in research on the administrative side of the orphan care centre.

Both students were placed with a mentor, a WUSC volunteer, when they arrived in Botswana.

"The program is unique because you have that mentor," said Ms. Capozzi. "You really learn how development works in real life."

Ms. Capozzi highly recommends a placement experience to other students.

"Even a short placement will affect your education. Any international experience in university will affect your entire university experience," she said. "It can be challenging but it's so rewarding."


Providing a Helping Hand in Otse Village

Photo 2: Janice Nyarko-Mensah in the hills above Otse VillageJanice Nyarko-Mensah had an eye-opening experience working with the residents of Otse Village in Botswana as part of her seven-week placement in the African country.

"In the first couple of days I was there, what struck me was that according to statistics, one in three people I saw walking on the street could have HIV/AIDS," she said.

Despite the AIDS epidemic, Ms. Nyarko-Mensah said that very few individuals admit publicly they have the disease because of the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS sufferers in Botswana and throughout Africa.

Ms. Nyarko-Mensah, a fourth-year Business Administration and Economics student at Trent University, participated in the World University Service of Canada (WUSC)/Trent International Program (TIP) Summer Service Placement from May to July 2005.

Placed in Otse Village, she worked with Botlhale Jwa Phala Trust, an environmentally-friendly paper recycling workshop.

The workshop made paper products out of recycled material – everything from cotton to porcupine quills, said Ms. Nyarko-Mensah.

Ten women and one man worked at the collective making picture frames, gift bags and stationary. The workshop, an entrepreneur program created for the village youth, also did paper collection. The paper was either sent for recycling to South Africa or used in the workshop's products, she said.

"It's a positive way for the youth of the village to earn an income," said Ms. Nyarko-Mensah. "It's their effort and the profits are shared equally among them."

Ms. Nyarko-Mensah helped with marketing the business locally. She also trained the workers, helping them with administrative skills, computer skills and accounting.

"It was very interesting," she said. "Working with a non-profit is really not an easy job but I noticed by the end of the placement that you could see development and improvement in the women – they took more initiative and had more confidence."

While in Botswana, Ms. Nyarko-Mensah had the opportunity to do some travelling. She went on safari and visited Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

Looking ahead, Ms. Nyarko-Mensah hopes to attend graduate school for Development Management Studies.

For now, she recommends the program to others.

"It was a great experience - it definitely broadens your perspective."

Photo 1: Maris Capozzi with one of the House of Hope students

Photo 2: Janice Nyarko-Mensah in the hills above Otse Village

Posted January 6, 2006



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