Botswana Baylor Adolescent Program

25 10 2011

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Two Anecdotes of HIV Infection (beyond their control)

7 05 2012

Written by Amanda Hu (

When I was given a tour of the Botswana-Baylor Children’s Clinical Centre of Excellence, I learned that most of the HIV-positive youth in the country acquired HIV through mother-to-child transmission, and a smaller percentage through rape; it was a very small minority of children who contracted HIV through their own chosen behaviors. Yet despite the fact that they had no choice in the matter, they must deal with the consequences. I wanted to share two people’s stories about acquiring their HIV-positive status, the first through mother-to-child transmission and the second through an incident of rape.

I talked to a young man from Mochudi, 17 years old, who told me the following when I asked him about some of the challenges he’d experienced in his life: “When my mother gave birth to me she passed away while I was still young and I don’t even know her face, or my father’s. In 2006 I got a disease and while I tested at the hospital they told me that I was positive for HIV, but because I was still young I didn’t know anything. While I was growing, I realized how I could maintain my health despite the fact that I had HIV, but the thing is I have to take the treatment everyday as the doctor recommended… Now, I am doing so. It took me time, but I have accepted the situation.” He believes he became HIV positive from his mother and also indirectly from his grandmother, who were both HIV positive. When he found out about his positive status he said, “I was ashamed,” but “because there are teen clubs I became involved and it helped me to be open to myself and know that it is not me alone who is suffering from HIV and it is not my fault. Nowadays I am also confident because of Stepping Stones.” Teen club is a support group run by Baylor specifically for HIV-positive youth in Botswana, and Stepping Stones International is an after-school program for OVCs in Mochudi.

Another person from Mochudi, an 18-year-old female, informed me that she was HIV positive as the result of a rape. Expanding upon the story, she told me the following: “I remember clearly that it was around examination time, and on one Sunday I went out with my friends to a liquor bar. At around midnight I sneaked out of the bar with the intention of dodging my friends so that I could go back home because I was supposed to go to school on Monday. I went through a passage and I saw a person following and calling me by my name. I hurried through the passage but he suddenly grabbed me and took a knife out of his pocket. He dragged me and pressed me against a nearby rock and commanded me not to make any noise or else he would kill me. He ripped off my clothes and raped me. I was bleeding all over the body. As if that was not enough, he dragged me and laid me beside the tarred road and left me lying there unconscious… only to find myself in the hospital after regaining consciousness. I was told that I was found by the police on patrol and they brought me to the hospital.” The man was arrested.

This is her description of the aftermath: “[Now] I feel that everything is okay, especially that my mother is treating me well; from the time I was admitted to the hospital my family gave me a lot of support throughout the whole process.

Immediately after the HIV diagnosis I underwent extensive psychosocial counseling at an organization called ‘Bakgatla bolokang matshelo.’ I was told to accept my status and I eventually joined teen club… As a member of teen club, I began to accept my HIV status because I realized that I was not alone and there are other young people my age who have the same problem as mine. My family accepted me and gave me some love.”

These testimonies certainly also speak to the value of support programs for vulnerable youth – despite their very trying circumstances, such programs can make a tremendous difference.

Where are these people now? The first person mentioned above wants to be a policeman “to help society to control crime and also advise my age mates.” He “takes other kids for counseling, and advises them to take the treatment and protect themselves and not mix treatment with alcohol,” and says he doesn’t want his peers or his future children “to suffer like I did.” As for the second, she enthusiastically intends to be a doctor (a general practitioner) working in Botswana and also says, “I personally think I can help change the mindset of young people towards HIV/AIDS through sharing my story and experience. I will also teach them about HIV prevention measures and not forgetting to encourage them to never give up too easily in life no matter the circumstances.” By channeling their hardship in a way that allows them to ameliorate the lives of others as well as provide experience for a more successful future, these young people are extraordinary examples for other youth who are also undergoing substantial adversity.

Show me the money! Barclays Bank of Botswana’s Financial Literacy Teen Club 2012

23 04 2012

In March, the Gaborone Teen Club learned all about money: budgeting, saving, spending, bartering…you name it, they tried it. All of this knowledge was brought to our teens by the generosity of volunteers from Barclays Bank who dedicated their Saturday to teaching us about financial literacy.  A new group at Botswana-Baylor, the Young Adults Support Group, particularly benefited from this lesson, as many of them will soon enter the job market and need to learn how to properly manage their money.

 After fun and energetic warm ups, the teens were split into three groups: younger (13-16 years old), older (17-19 years old), and young adults (19+). All groups began the day listening to presentations by the Barclays Bank volunteers. The representatives talked about different ways of keeping track of one’s expenses, saving money and spending it wisely. The talks were engaging and informative and laid the groundwork for the day’s activities. At the conclusion of the presentations and question-and-answer time, the teens were further subdivided in their groups to begin the day’s activities!

 The younger teens had the task of planning a major event on a budget. They were split into six groups, half planning a school award giving ceremony and half planning a talent show. Each group was given a budget and presented with options for various elements of each event (ex. venues, food, entertainment etc…). Their job was to work together as a team to come up with a fun event that was within their budget. The teens did a wonderful job working together and communicating with each other about how to stay within their financial constraints. At the end of the exercise, each group presented their plan for the event, enabling the teens to practice both their public speaking and their financial literacy skills!

 The older teens and the young adults were split into groups of six to play the board game South African Monopoly. Shouts and laughter filled Baylor’s lobby as the older teens paid and gained money, bought and sold properties, went bankrupt, built hotels and hit the jackpot! As Monopoly emphasizes buying and maintaining property, a very important part of one’s adult life, the older teens were learning to implement the budgeting techniques that the Barclay’s representatives had discussed all the while. Once the games started, passersby could only see were the backs of the teens’ heads as everyone huddled over the game boards, completely engrossed.


 The day’s events turned out to be a wonderful success! Teens were able to apply what they had learned from the Barclay’s representatives with the activities and games that followed. All activities were enjoyed by younger and older teens alike, and everyone—even the Teen Club staff—came away from the day a little bit wiser!

 A huge thanks to Barclays Bank of Botswana for making this Financial Literacy Teen Club possible not only in Gaborone, but at all of our satellite Teen Clubs around Botswana, too!!

The Art of Giving Back: Community-Service in Gaborone’s Teen Club

15 03 2012

To give or to receive: that was the question answered at Gaborone Teen Club’s February event. Teens spent the morning discussing the meaning of “community service” and its role in their lives. Writing lists of everything they give and receive on a daily basis created a renewed awareness and appreciation among the teens of just how much they get from others every day. Countless studies have shown that giving actually makes us feel better, happier and more satisfied than receiving. With this in mind, teens spent the Teen Club day creating things to give to others!

 The main activity of the day was making spacers for inhalers. Inhalers are devices used by people with asthma to direct medication into their lungs that helps them to breathe. Spacers are cylindrical devices that create a tunnel of space between someone’s inhaler and mouth; this makes it much easier to correctly inhale the medicine into the lungs, rather than swallowing it into their stomachs where it will not help. As helpful as spacers are, they are also quite expensive. Luckily, doctors at the Botswana-Baylor Clinic knew that you can make them easily, effectively and inexpensively out of small plastic water bottles!

 Thanks to the generous donations of empty used water bottles from hotels and schools around Gaborone, we were able to collect 373 bottles to turn into spacers. Teen Club staff cut holes in the bottom of the bottles (where the mouth of the inhaler will be inserted) before Teen Club. Teens started by removing the labels from the bottles, then they washed and rinsed every bottle and laid them out to dry in the sun. While the bottles dried, teens decorated new labels for the spacers, drawing colorful pictures and writing encouraging messages to the spacers’ future recipients such as “feel better soon” and “you are great.” Finally, teens glued the new labels onto the spacers and taped over the hole cut in the bottom to make smooth edges and a snug fit for the mouth of the inhalers.

 In the morning, the younger teens (13-15 years old) made birthday and holiday cards for doctors at the neighboring public hospital to give to young patients staying in the hospital over holidays or their birthdays. While this was happening, older teens started making inhaler spacers out of recycled water bottles. Making the spacers was more time consuming than expected, so in the second half of the morning, the younger teens joined the effort! In the end, the teens were able to complete the production and decoration of all 373 spacers!

 Teens reported feeling very happy about the day. One stated, “I feel so good about giving back to my community that I wrote my name on the water bottle. I want the person to know that it is from me to them!”


All in all, community service Teen Club was a big hit. We cannot wait to begin giving out the spacers and holiday and birthday cards to children! Thank you to all of the organizations who donated water bottles, to the doctors whose idea sparked this project, and to the teens for making it possible!

January Teen Club: Identifying Positives and Negatives in Relationships

29 02 2012

January’s Teen Club had the teens learning about and discussing various relationships in their lives. The day started off with a talk from Dr. Refilwe, a medical officer at the Baylor Clinic. She discussed the importance of healthy transition into adulthood and from Baylor to a local clinic. She facilitated the first meeting of the young adults support group. The around 16 member who are part of the group talk about a suitable name for the group, outlined the objectives and aims and spoke about their dreams and expectations. From now on, the young adults support group will take place once a month at the same time as the Gaborone Teen Club.

Following the presentation, the teens were broken into two groups (younger and older teens) for the rest of the day’s activities. The first activity of the day involved the teens discussing their opinions on roles within relationships. Volunteers read out statements (ex. “Because your boyfriend wants to have sex with you, you know that he really loves you.”) and the teens were asked to stand next to signs saying Yes, No or Maybe, depending on how they felt about each statement. After the teens had made their decisions, the volunteers asked and encouraged them, to discuss why they were standing where they were. All of the teens (both the younger and older groups) participated very enthusiastically in the discussions following each statement. The activity proved to be an effective and fun way to engage teens in a healthy discussion about stereotypes that exist within various relationships and why those stereotypes may or may not be true. The teens enjoyed this activity so much that we ran over time!

 The next activity involved role playing. The younger and older teens were given different scenarios/situations that may be typical within predominant relationships in their lives. They broke up into smaller groups and the volunteers asked the teens to role play both the scenario as well as what the teens thought would be the most appropriate solution to the problem. The situations involved not only romantic relationships, but also familial relationships as well as relationships with friends and peers. The skits that the teens came up with were very creative and showed excellent problem solving skills. Many of the teens reported how much they enjoyed role-playing.

Overall, the day was a resounding success. The teens were able to approach the, sometimes difficult, topic of relationships in creative ways. The various activities generated a great deal of discussion among the teens and both the younger and older teens reported enjoying the day’s activities!

A Visit from Ambassador Gavin!

16 12 2011

This December, several of our Teen Club Teen Leaders were lucky enough to have the opportunity to sit down and chat with the United States Ambassador to Botswana. Ambassador Gavin told the Teen Leaders about her childhood, adolescence and the path she took to arrive at the position she fills today. The Teen Leaders then asked her questions about her job, her passions, her life, and asked for her advice on issues in their own lives. Ambassador Gavin was honest, frank and she made the teens laugh throughout the meeting! Her dedication to Botswana’s youth shined through, and all of the Teen Leaders present at the meeting left feeling inspired by her words. The Botswana-Baylor Children’s Clinical Centre of Excellence would like to extend its most heartfelt THANK YOU to the U.S. Embassy and, especially, to Ambassador Gavin, whose presence and message will send our teens happily and safely into the new year.

Botswana Baylor Fun Run 2011

7 12 2011

To read more about the first Botswana Baylor Fun Run, click here!


Getting in touch with your creative side: Teen Club Arts and Crafts!

7 12 2011

November’s Teen Club activities focused on getting creative! There were several different projects going on simultaneously. Half of the teens worked on a canvas painting project for the Jack Meier Gallery in Houston, Texas. The project was proposed and generously sponsored by Michael Chmiel, the gallery’s owner. The completed paintings have been shipped to Houston where they will be featured in an auction held by Mr. Chmiel; some of the proceeds from the auction will go towards building the Botswana Baylor Adolescent Centre! Not only did the teens learn how to be creative and express their feelings through art, but they also became directly involved in raising money to build their own Adolescent Centre. For the paintings themselves, Mr. Chmiel encouraged the teens to be creative, to paint anything they wanted, from very abstract splotches of color to more concrete images. The only rule: they had to cover the entire canvas with paint; no white space allowed! At first, many teens were hesitant to splash paint on a blank canvas, but with the help of our excellent volunteers and a local professional artist, the teens warmed up to the idea. The paintings ranged from abstract patterns to very detailed cars to paintings reflecting their experiences in life. It was quite a sight to see all the beautiful, colorful paintings lined up on a log in the sun and on the bushes to dry!


Other teens took part in creating a World AIDS Day banner that will be displayed at the COE every year on December 1st. This year’s World AIDS Day theme is “Getting to Zero” (for more information visit: WorldAIDSCampaign), though the banner did not focus on this specific theme as we want to be able to display the banner for many years to come. This year’s theme, however, is very special as this year marks the 30th anniversary of the first recorded case of AIDS back in 1981. The banner was a way to allow the teens to reflect on World AIDS Day and the importance of raising awareness.

 Finally, some teens learned how to crochet on potato sacks. This type of artwork can be found all over Botswana and is a very creative way to use material that would have otherwise been thrown away. The resulting designs were colorful, fun and environmentally sustainable.

 Toward the end of the day, the Teen Club Coordinator took some of the older teens aside to discuss relationship, abuse and gender issues that they were encouraged to keep in mind as they left for the Christmas holidays.

 Overall, Teen Club Arts and Crafts day was a wonderful success! The teens were able to take part in activities that many of them had not experienced before and became directly involved in raising money for their future Adolescent Centre. We also discovered some natural artists during the day’s activities! The teens seemed to really enjoy themselves, chatting away with each other throughout the morning. They also learned to work together and communicate to share paintbrushes and paint and in coming up with a cohesive theme for the World AIDS Day banner.


On behalf of our teens, we would like to send a big thank you to Michael Chmiel and the Jack Meier Gallery for the tremendous support!


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