In the press
Reaching for higher ground
by Kebonyemodisa Watota
Shakawe, Botswana: I was just about to put on my favourite soccer t-shirt (number three from my new soccer team, Okavango) when I met one of our drivers Edson Snoop Setshego. He informed me that the river was overflowing and that people in Kauxwi and Xakao had been affected.
I did not have the chance to call the District AIDS Coordinator but I sent her a message asking her permission to go and assist. I arrived in Kauxwi on the 23 March for an assessment, and met the chief who told me that the last time the river overflowed was in 1969.
We were later joined by District Commissioner Mrs B. Malala and Captain L. Motsumi from the Botswana Defence Force along with other government officials to assess the situation and pave the way forward On 24 March we were joined by Botswana Red Cross volunteers and together we crossed the river on 25 March to go and help
We arrived in Xakao on 25 March and joined the disaster management team that was chosen by the District Commissioner. We started helping people to higher ground, but later we realized that the place was also near water; hence there was the need for a second relocation.
The District Coordinator then called a meeting the same day during which all community members were given a platform to map the way forward. At first people were reluctant to move because they believed that the water would pass, but after more consultation it was agreed that the best way was to move to higher ground. We then loaded property into cars at an agricultural field that was identified by the community.
As a UNV volunteer, I facilitated dialogue during the meeting. This was possible due to the fact that I had been working with the community in the Community Capacity Enhancement programme, so I was not new to them and this accelerated speedy dialogue. I spent three nights with them to assure them that the new place was safe.
During one of the community conversations we realized that an 18-year-old mentally-handicapped girl was missing, and it was believed that she had been chained up due to her disability. The disaster management team managed to save the young girl in time.
I also helped in the building of temporary shelters for those that were affected. In a communications capacity, I helped represent the District AIDS Coordinator and fed my own office with updates of what was happening on the ground.
All affected people (more than 400) were taken to higher ground and given food and temporary shelter (which was built by everyone involved, including the affected people). No lives were lost.
The District AIDS Coordinator’s office supplied condoms too as part of efforts to motivate HIV/AIDS behavioural change.
I want to thank all the people that helped, and to encourage them to continue with the spirit of volunteerism. It is the foundation of our country, and the driving force of Botswana’s vision for 2016 and the Millennium Development Goals that we are all aspiring to.
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