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5 posts from October 2014


Fall 2014 Issue II: SOS Volunteer Day



On Saturday September 13th, CIEE staff, students and local student volunteers spent the morning volunteering at SOS Children's Village in Tlokweng. It was a great opportunity to give back to the community in which we work.

Here’s what’s in this issue:

Background of SOS
Organizing for the Day
Leadership, Crafts and Health & Wellness
Donations and Thanks


SOS Children's Villages is an international non-governmental organization started by an Austrian man named Hermann Gmeiner in 1949. SOS stands for "Sociatas o Sociale," a Latin phase meaning the "Helping Hand Society."

HermannHermann Gmeiner with a young girl in Brazil,

In the aftermath of World War II, there were many orphaned children in Europe with no one to care for them. Gmeiner realized the importance of creating a community of love for every child. Instead of opening individual orphanages, he created a system in which children are grouped in villages. Each child lives in a family unit---a home with an SOS mother and siblings, who are other children in similar situations. Multiple families then make up the village.

In 1955, SOS Children's Villages expanded from Austria to France, Germany and Italy. In the early 1960s, it moved beyond Europe to Asia.

The first SOS Children's Village in Africa opened in Côte d'Ivoire. The SOS Children's Village Association of Botswana was founded in 1980. The first village in Botswana was opened in 1987 in Tlokweng, a village on the outskirts of Gaborone, Botswana's capital. In 1998, a second village was opened in Francistown, about 400 kilometers north of Gaborone. The third village was opened in Serowe, about 300 kilometres north of Gaborone, in 2008.

IMG_0879Entering the SOS Children's Village in Tlokweng

The mission of SOS: "We build families for children in need, we help them shape their own futures and we share in the development of their communities."

The vision of SOS: "Every child belongs to a family and grows with love, respect and security."


As the SOS Children's Village in Tlokweng is a 15-minute combi (mini-bus) ride from University of Botswana, we planned our volunteer day there. The Tlokweng site is also the largest in Gaborone, supporting 192 children and youth. Out of the 192, 126 live at the village full-time. The remaining 66 are older youth that live outside of the village; most have finished Form 5 (high school) and are in technical schools and other institutions of higher learning.

Before the Fall 2014 CIEE students even arrived, CIEE staff had been communicating with SOS staff to secure a date for the volunteer day. We also determined what kind of themed activities we should plan for. An important aspect of volunteering is its sustainability. We did not want to just cook for the children at SOS, for instance. What would they learn from that? We wanted to impart knowledge that they would take away from the time with us. We decided to break the SOS kids up into their particular age groups and have them cycle through three stations: leadership, crafts and health & wellness.

CIEE students and student volunteers signed up to lead a particular age group and station based on their interests. The group leaders were then responsible to plan the activities for their group.

A week before our trip to SOS, CIEE staff and students made signs for the different stations, to be put up all around the village when we arrived. We also did a site visit to see the venue so we could better plan the layout of the different stations on Saturday.

IMG_0883CIEE students Erin and Shunese with their sign


After all of the planning, we headed over to SOS at 8:30 am on Saturday, September 13th.

IMG_0878Excited CIEE students Mariah, Braeden, Diamond, Shunese, Gabby and Jenna on the way to SOS (and other Tlokweng combi passengers)

Upon arrival at SOS, we went toward the playground to set up our sessions. The library was right behind the playground and provided the perfect space to split the students up into groups.

IMG_0881Gaone Manatong, a CIEE intern, handing out the signs to each group leader. Also pictured: CIEE students Gabby, Diamond, Alaina, Braeden, Chelsey, Todd and Shunese

The craft groups moved into the library and got started right away. Unfortunately, because of privacy considerations, we are not allowed to show any photos with full faces of the SOS children.

IMG_0893CIEE students Molly and Jenna color with the 7-9 year olds


CIEE students led interactive sessions on coloring, making paper airplanes, expressing oneself through artwork, and making other fun games, such as the one shown below.


Although the inside crafts were going smoothly, the outside activities were not going to plan. Another international sponsor had planned to have a volunteer day that we were unaware of. They brought a clown and bouncey castle which made it difficult to begin our sessions on nutrition and leadership. Luckily, SOS staff assisted us in assembling the rest of the kids. We were able to carry out our activities with the kids for a couple of hours.

In Diamond's health and wellness session for the 16-20 year olds (pictured below), she focused on positive body image and staying active through dance.


The human knot is such a fun communication and group bonding exercise that two groups decided to use it - Ashley, with the 13-15 year olds and Sierra, Chelsey and Angie with the 10-12 year olds. The purpose of the human knot is to untangle the group from each other. Individuals in a group form a circle and hold hands with other members of the group. They then must communicate effectively to reform the circle without letting go of each other's hands.

IMG_0898Ashley's group doing the human knot

IMG_0899Chelsey, Sierra and Angie getting ready to lead the human knot exercise

Lauren and Carol played some games with the 7-9 year olds (shown below). The games focused on leadership skills. Lauren and Carol tried to cultivate these skills using teamwork exercises, such as moving across the ground while only stepping on the pieces of paper.


Zoe and Sierra then helped the 7-9 year olds into big plastic bags for the "sack race."


Meanwhile, Erin was with the 3-6 year olds, teaching them "duck, duck goose" and doing their own sack races.


Back in the library, Gaone was teaching some of the kids how to play table tennis. But she wouldn't let any of them win!


Although the logistics were not conducive to carry out all of our planned leadership and health & wellness activities, it was still a great morning. CIEE students and student volunteers were able to connect with the SOS kids and remind them that there are people out there supporting them.

It was also a great learning experience for the CIEE students. They learned other facilitiation techniques from the clown and other volunteers. They also gained a better appreciation for the importance of patience and flexibility.


But our day wasn't over yet! In the spirit of health and wellness, we had purchased toothbrushes, toothpaste and sanitary pads for the SOS kids. After everyone ate a light lunch, we told the kids a bit more about CIEE and gave them the various items. We handed out the toothbrushes and toothpaste publicly, but gave the sanitary pads to the house mothers to be passed out privately, in order to avoid embarassing the older girls.

IMG_0930CIEE students Chelsey, Katherine, Carol and with student volunteer Laone waiting to be served lunch

IMG_0931CIEE student Jenna with student volunteers Lerato and Oratile

We assembled in front of the kids in order to distribute the donations. CIEE Program Assistant Amelia Plant explained that CIEE brings foreign students to Botswana and that we came to spend a bit of time with the kids at SOS. She also reiterated the importance of taking care of yourself, such as brushing your teeth every day.

IMG_0932From left: CIEE Program Assistant Amelia Plant, CIEE students Erin, Todd, Diamond and Ashley, CIEE Program Assistant Tanya Phiri, CIEE students Alaina and Chelsey, the clown, and SOS staff member Punah Thato

IMG_0940Giving out the toothbrushes and toothpaste

All in all, everyone had a fun-filled day. Some CIEE students formed bonds with the SOS kids, and continue to return to SOS to tutor during the week.

Until next time, sala sentle (stay well)!

IMG_0968Our group! From left to right, back to front: CIEE students Braeden, Carol, Molly, Sierra, Zoe, Chelsey, Todd, student volunteer Lera, CIEE students Mariah and Katherine, student volunteer Laone, CIEE students Erin, Lauren and Jenna, CIEE Program Assistant Tanya Phiri, CIEE-affiliated volunteer Kagiso, CIEE students Shunese and Alex, CIEE Program Assistant Amelia Plant, CIEE students Alaina, Gabby, Mikayla, and Ashley, CIEE intern Gaone Manatong, CIEE student Diamond, and student volunteer Oratile.



African Crafts











Post by Braeden Cummings from Keene State College

Buyers beware! Globalization is leading to cheap foreign factory replication of African crafts and identity.

You have arrived in Gaborone, Botswana on the continent of Africa to experience a life changing number of months in a place far from home that people generally know little about. The people, the wildlife and the landscape are all stunning. You want to remember this trip by purchasing a few authentic African crafts for family, friends and yourself. There is a craft stall set up down the road with tons of African masks, wooden carvings, instruments, paintings and clothing alike! This seller is on the street and selling his wares outside it must be authentic. WRONG.

Western countries have tons of knockoff and counterfeit products that resemble designer brands. These items can be perfumes, shoes, hats, clothing or handbags. The list goes on. China produces the vast majority of all these products at a fraction of the price of the authentic item. This is exactly what has happened in Africa.

A number of purveyors of the “traditional” or “authentic” African goods really have no idea where on earth they came from. I have personally spotted the same carved set of baboons in two different countries and four cities all hundreds of kilometers away. Each time I ask the seller what products he or she has handmade, they will point to a wooden carving, the same one I have seen in Durban, South Africa, now here in Botswana.  Some goods are produced in high quantities in African countries, others abroad.

The truth is, the items that are produced within China are much cheaper than the handmade authentic African works of art that most expect they are buying. The replicas are outcompeting the local craftsmen. The money from tourists that should be going back into the community is being sent to countries far away. There are very few benefits to the locals when you buy imported goods.

BUT WAIT there is hope! I have spotted authentic gifts in many places. Usually if you watch the person make an item, it’s a safe bet to know it’s not factory made. You can try and ask and see where these items are from. From my own experience, the more expensive and the simpler the item, the more authentic it is.  There should be some inconsistency and human error in the finished product if it is authentic.

Suggestions for authentic African crafts include - paintings, local carvings made on site, South African wine from small vineyards, Marula or Amarula products, jewelry, woven baskets and photographs! Just talk to the vendor for a little and spend some time examining the product before you simply by.

Copy and past this link below and skip to about 4:45 minutes into the podcast for an informative summery of what I have been discussing:

<iframe src="" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" width="100%" height="240px"></iframe>

ThumbnailOn the left side the crafts have not been verified authentic. The right side contains authentic African made products such as Marula and metal worked items.

ThumbnailCrafts outdoors may not be authentic. Use good judgment and talk to the vendors for a while.

ThumbnailCraft vendors set up along a road near Hout Bay, Cape Town, South Africa

ThumbnailThis is a great place in Gaborone to buy some authentic African goods made in front of your eyes!

ThumbnailHandmade Botswana crafts.


When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Chicken Francese











Post by Todd Hall from Williams College

I’m mildly obsessed with food. After weeks of monotonous dining hall options—beef or chicken, rice or paletche, a smidgen of cabbage or squash, and the infamous red soup every day without fail—I started craving variety. Unfortunately, cooking is strictly prohibited in the residence halls.

I bought a kettle and a blender, the only dorm-legal appliances, and started experimenting. I started with simple avocado-banana smoothies. Then I began making boiled eggs, garlic hummus, spaghetti, spinach, and corn.

Image4Making tomato basil bisque required my kettle, my blender, and a repurposed peanut butter jar. I heated garlic, butter, onion, and parsley in the glass jar by submerging it in my boiling kettle.  I blended these ingredients with milk (I couldn’t find heavy cream) and canned tomatoes. Lastly, I heated the soup using the-glass-jar-in-the-kettle technique again. Heavy cream would have been a game changer, but I was quite satisfied overall.

Image4I wondered how it could be so hard to find heavy cream in a country where prized cows and beef abound. I expected local, artisanal yogurts and cheeses, but most of the dairy is imported from South Africa. I was disappointed and borderline indignant at what seemed to be a waste of culinary and economic potential. I pondered the dearth of dairy for days.

Then I finally asked someone about it. Apparently the cows in Botswana simply aren’t dairy cows. Also, many Batswana have some degree of lactose intolerance. I realized that I’d created expectations based on my needs rather than the needs of Batswana people. The dairy mystery taught me to avoid judgments and to ask questions.

Two of the most rewarding questions I have asked here were “Where did you find lemons?!” and “Can I cook a meal at your house on Saturday?” On the weekend before my birthday, I wanted to get fancier than my tea kettle and blender would allow. I arranged to cook dinner with other students at Mma Bianca’s house.

After tracking down lemons and other ingredients, we assembled and started cooking. Two hours later we feasted and bonded over Chicken Francese, pasta, vegetable stir fry, black bean salad, and bread pudding with balsamic strawberry sauce. It was a delicious, well-needed, birthday-slice of home.


1. Renting a fridge is a worthwhile investment.

2. Buy black pepper. Campus food can be heavy in salt and paltry in pepper.

3. If you nicely request more veggies, the worse dining staff can do is say no.

4. Be open to new foods. My newly acquired tastes include boerwors (a sausage), rooibos tea, paletche (maize meal), phaphatha (bread), and chakalaka (spicy baked beans).

5. Ask people where they have seen hard to find ingredients like lemons and be willing to substitute ingredients when possible.

6. If you crave a dish from home, ask a homestay family to cook at their house. You’ll be sharing both a nice meal and some of your culture!


Joining a New Team

Blog pic








Post by Alexandra Henry from the University of Southern California

As I tried to settle into a routine during my first few weeks at the University of Botswana I looked for extracurricular activities to be a part of, such as volunteer opportunities, clubs and sports.  I quickly decided I wanted to volunteer at the Gaborone Game Reserve, but finding a club or sport that I wanted to join proved to be harder than I expected.  My class schedule conflicted with the meetings for a club I wanted to join, and I had hoped to join the soccer team, but the women’s soccer team wasn’t having practices or games this semester.  I decided to be adventurous and try playing a sport that was new to me.  Some sports offered this semester at UB include basketball, volleyball, softball, badminton, swimming, and tennis.

One day a friend told me that she joined the tennis team, so I decided to tag along with her to one of the practices.  I had never played before and I didn’t know the rules, or even how to hold a tennis racket correctly.  The first practice I showed up to the tennis courts nervous because I knew so little about tennis.  Based on the number of times I swung and missed the ball during that first practice I was convinced that they wouldn’t want me to come to any more practices.    


However, as the weeks went on I realized that the practices are very laid back and that there were other beginners at the same skill level as me.  Attendance at practices is usually inconsistent even for the coach.  About six weeks into the semester, the coach showed up to his first practice.  He hit a few balls with us and then had to leave.  Although practices are not taken very seriously, I have enjoyed learning how to play tennis and meeting a lot of people.


I look forward to taking a break from schoolwork and going to tennis practice every evening.  It has been a great way for me to relieve stress, and stay active and busy.  A couple of weeks ago I was having a bad day and was considering not going to practice, but at the last minute I decided to go.  I was instantly in a better mood as soon as I got to the tennis courts and started talking to friends I had made on the team.


The first few weeks of school were hectic, but joining the tennis team helped me settle into a routine and feel more at home here in Gaborone.  Joining a sports team or a club is a great way to become part of the UB community and meet many students, both local and international.   



Fall 2014 Issue I: Culture in Kanye



On September 6th, Fall 2014 Arts & Sciences students and CIEE staff spent a morning at Motse Lodge in the village of Kanye, about an hour and a half from Gaborone. We learned how to make pottery, milk goats and cook diphaphatha, a traditional bread. What a great day!

Here’s what’s in this issue:

Introduction to Motse
Pottery Extraordinaire
Fun With Animals
Traditional Cooking


Kanye is one of the largest villages in Botswana, with over 30,000 people. It is the home of the Bangwaketse tribe, one of the biggest tribes in the country. As part of our Setswana Language and Culture course, all students spend time with a host family in Kanye. Community Public Health students live in Kanye for a week while they learn about the rural public health system. Arts & Sciences students spend a weekend in the village.

In addition to the bonds that form in the homestays, the students also experience the rich village culture and the physical beauty of the hills. The students have time to explore the village's gorge, dam, and even attend a traditional wedding if they're lucky! We also organized a trip for each group to Motse Lodge, a cultural lodge in the heart of Kanye. CIEE Resident Director Basetsana Maposa and Program Assistants Tanya Phiri and Amelia Plant joined the Arts & Sciences students for their visit to Motse on Saturday, September 6th.

Upon arrival at Motse, we were greeted with a sign displaying the lodge's motto:


At 9 am, we all gathered to have a briefing from Matshidiso, the owner of Motse Lodge. We enjoyed a light breakfast of coffee and sandwiches while Matshidiso told us about the services the lodge provides and the activities we would be engaging it that morning.

IMG_0791Arts & Sciences students Angie, Alex, Sierra, Todd, Mariah, Zoe, Braeden, Gabby, Jenna, Erin, and Shunese sitting at the Bojale Restaurant

Motse Lodge is a destination site for wedding receptions. After the ceremony at the church, wedding parties arrive at Motse for photos, lunch and dancing. Motse staff can cater for any occasion, as there is a large space in the back perfect for oversized tents. They also offer hiking and bird watching activities, as well as tours to the Kanye Gorge and Mmakgodumo Dam.


Rather than head out into the hills, though, our plan was to stay at the lodge. Matshidiso told us that we would be learning how to make traditional pottery, how to milk a goat, and how to cook some traditional foods. We couldn't wait to begin.


When you enter the lodge, there is a swimming pool in front of you and huts on the right in the formation of a traditional homestead. After breakfast, we made our way over to the huts and sat on the ground with the pottery teacher. Our first activity was traditional potterymaking.

IMG_0803Getting our first lesson in Batswana potterymaking. Pictured: Basetsana Maposa, CIEE Gaborone Resident Director; Students Zoe, Mariah, Braeden, Jenna, Sierra, Angie and Gabby

We learned how they collect sand from the river bed and combine it with a certain kind of soil. They pound the mixture together and add water until it becomes clay.


We were each given a handful of clay to begin making our pots. The pottery teacher spoke instructions in Setswana and Basetsana translated for the students. First we were to form our lump into a ball and then roll it out into a cylinder. We then connected the ends of the cylinder into a bowl.


Some were avid pros, like Gabby (shown below). Others, like Program Assistant Amelia Plant, had to give her bowl back to the pottery teacher to reshape it for her.


After we finished, we set our pots out to dry. They would be fired later that day and would be ready to be picked up within a week.

IMG_0839Our bowls baking in the sun


We continued with our traditional lessons by learning how to cover the floor with cow dung and mud. It is a common method to keep the floor cool and smooth in the summer months. It fills in the cracks in the floor and helps to prevent animals, such as snakes, from entering the home.

Luckily, we did not have to prepare the mud and cow dung mixture. We just put our hands in it and jumped right in!

IMG_0834Braeden and Basetsana collecting the mixture into the bucket to take it to the place where we would start applying it.

IMG_0827Braeden, Mariah, Angie, Basetsana and a staff member from Motse

Before putting down the mud and cow dung covering, we were taught to cover the floor with water, which helps the mixture stay fixed long-term.

Students who finished their bowls quickly moved onto the floor covering exercise.

IMG_0836Sierra, Erin, Mariah and Angie doing the floor covering, while Alex and Todd finished up their bowls.

After everyone was done with the potterymaking, we washed our hands and moved onto the goat milking. A local farmer was gracious enough to bring his herd of goats for us to practice milking on. We didn't know how much technique was involved! Below, Angie is showing Todd how to put the goat's hoof behind his knee for better access to the teat.


IMG_0847Jenna and the goat

Even CIEE staff tried their luck!

IMG_0853Basetsana, Resident Director



Left: Amelia Plant, and Right: Tanya Phiri, Program Assistants



After milking goats, we had one last activity before lunch: cooking! Matshidiso first showed us how to grind sorghum and maize into the powders that Batswana use to cook their traditional starch dishes. The seeds and maize kernels are first collected from the fields and pounded using the mortar shown below. After the seeds are pounded, they are grinded using smooth stones (not pictured).

IMG_0799Todd and Angie learning about the correct way to pound sorghum and maize.

The same pounding mechanism is used to prepare sediment from the river beds so that is fine enough to make clay.

IMG_0807Todd and Shunese putting their skills to good use

After the pounding, we moved onto learning about traditional breadmaking. In busy streets around Gaborone, there are always vendors selling different kinds of bread - steamed (madombi), fried (magwinya) and baked (diphaphatha and mapakiwa). We were taught how to form the dough into balls and bake them over the fire.

IMG_0868Basetsana, Sierra, Erin, Todd, Alex and Shunese putting the dough into balls

Motse staff had prepared the dough beforehand so we could bake the bread quickly. To prepare it in the future, they told us to simply mix bread flour, salt, sugar, warm water and yeast. Sounds easy enough!

IMG_0873Jenna placing the diphaphatha to cook in the fire

After cooking the diphaphatha, we headed back to the Bojale Restaurant for lunch. It was an educational and fun-filled morning!

Look out for the next edition of the CIEE Gaborone Fall 2014 Newsletter. Until next time, sala sentle (stay well)!