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

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!