Several people have asked us- but what are you actually doing? So, we have decided to take the next few posts to talk about what we are each doing. This post is about Teresa’s work at Gabane Community Home Based Care (GCHBC). (Picture below- classrooms to right, kitchen in front and offices to right, playground-not shown). I usually get to work around 7:30 and leave about 3:30 or when the combi is ready to take the last load of kids and staff.
GCHBC started in 1997 in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis which was leaving many children orphaned. There was also a need to help people in their homes as they were dying. To meet these needs two approaches were adopted. The first was to establish a pre-school for orphans and children left vulnerable due to HIV/AIDS. The second was to develop a team of volunteers who visited patients in their homes and helped with self-care, cooking, medicine adherence, and social contact. This was done in coordination with the local health clinic. There was also a support group established for those who were living with the virus.
Flash forward almost 20 years and here’s what has changed. People aren’t dying so much from HIV/AIDS anymore as the government supplied ARTs (Anti-retroviral-treatment) are allowing people with HIV to live positively with the disease. So the focus of the Center has shifted a bit. First, the support group broke off and became its own NGO (non-government organization). Patients are still being visited but are not necessarily suffering from HIV/AIDS. They may be suffering from other chronic, debilitating or terminal illnesses. The preschool is going strong, but not as many are orphans. There are still plenty of “vulnerable” children due to socio-economic conditions but the rate of transmission of HIV to newborns is less than 4%. GCHBC is committed to providing pre-school free to this population as well as to families who can afford to pay, albeit GCHBC is the lowest priced preschool in Gabane. Transportation and two meals per day are also provided.
There are 8.5 “staff”- technically they are volunteers but volunteers get paid something in Botswana. There are 2 cooks, 1.5 cleaners, 1 driver, 1 office administrator, 1 teaching assistant, 1 teacher, 1 head teacher/center coordinator. There are also two national youth volunteers who are about 20 years old.
So, what does this all mean and why do they need a PCV? They run on a shoestring. Since Botswana has been declared a middle income country, much of the outside support has dried up, particularly for NGOs. That doesn’t mean the government has let up on its regulations. So, I am there to help improve systems- financial, personnel, etc in order to put the organization in a better position to receive grants and other types of support.
They have gotten donations of computers but have no money for Internet although we do have a “dongle”. Recently, however, I have been able to save the Center quite a bit of money by finding competitive prices and alternate sources for goods and services by using my home Internet. There is one reasonably new computer but the others are dinosaurs and the printers are even worse. One computer has Word 97 on it and the other has Word 2003. Printer drivers are not available for one of the printers so the newest computer (a laptop) does not work with it and if I need to print on it, I have to transfer to a USB and then the versions of Excel are not compatible although Word seems to be with some formatting glitches. I make a lot of PDFs in order to print. The other printer is good for about 250 prints before the ink runs out and at about $25 per cartridge (US) it gets pretty unaffordable. Sometimes I bypass the lack of black ink by making it only print using the color cartridge. This printer is also used to make worksheets for the kids. Whatever happened to the old mimeograph machines! Add to this, serious electrical problems and we may not have power to run anything on a given day or maybe some things but not others. I gave you that detail so you can appreciate how I spend a lot of my day jerry rigging and figuring out what can be done where with what is available at that moment.
So far I have developed a system to see who owes us money and how much, a more robust registration and attendance system, a system to track that we have the proper documentation for each child, a way to compare food prices at different vendors to get the best deal, a proposed personnel structure, and I am learning Quick Books as the volunteer who was helping with this quit and the Office Administrator still needs training. With QB we will be able to easily invoice parents and issue statements. I also developed a marketing brochure.
Other days are spent riding in the Center’s combi (van) doing errands with the Office Administrator and Driver. There is basically no postal system for mail delivery and email usage is sporadic (I have it at home and check the Center’s email from there). So, whenever we need quotations in order to spend any money, we have to go to the business and get it in writing in person. This is required by our major benefactor, Pelegano Industries which doesn’t give us the money up front, but we have to get the quotation and then they are invoiced and they pay it for us. This includes food, petrol (gas), etc. So, a transaction often involves going and getting the quotation, getting it approved and then going back and ordering it, then again to pick it up. Sometimes, we have our own funds and this requires getting the quotation so we know how much we need, getting a check signed, going to the bank to cash it and making deposits of school fees at the same time, going to pay for the item- maybe get it on the spot- maybe order it and go back. I think you get the idea. This all takes a lot of time. It is not unusual for us to leave the Center around 10:30/11 and not be back until 3 when it is time for the kids to go home or sometimes even later and the kids are kept waiting.
Since none of the staff have cars, it is not unusual to include others on the trip and for extra stops to be made to accommodate various personal needs while we are in Gaborone.
I have also offered to do a story time once a week with the kids. We are expecting a shipment of books through Books for Africa (great organization to support) in June which should help the unfortunate state of our “library”.
Gary and I leave tomorrow for 3 weeks of PC training. One week is on gender issues. I am partnering with a teacher from his junior high school and when we get back, we will start doing gender work with the teens and I will try to incorporate some of what we learn into the preschool curriculum. Gender inequality and gender based violence are major contributing factors to the spread of HIV/AIDS but that is another entry for another day.
I know we could be more efficient if we had compatible computers, possibly setting up a network if we had Internet access or another means to communicate, and having up to date equipment. But there are so many needs, not sure when this will happen. We also need a new kitchen, dining area and more toilets in order to meet government licensing requirements. So I will be working on finding grant funding for that, although we will need an audit in order to apply for two of the sources I know about and that takes me back to learning Quick Books and getting the Center to use it appropriately so we can pass an audit.
I am afraid this is way too long so hopefully you have not fallen asleep or given up and gone back to more interesting Facebook postings. In a future post I will reflect more on the differences in working styles that I have found most interesting. I will close with a picture of our latest friend- our neighbor’s rooster whose favorite spot was the window ledge outside our back window until the neighbors made him go home with them at night. I named him Cogburn (yes, I am dating myself) and was promised he is not scheduled to be dinner any time soon.