The idea of change is something that I have been thinking about a lot since starting my work here in Francistown at True Men. A lot of the goals of the organisation, as well as the projects that they run, deal with change. Changing people’s opinions about HIV/AIDS. Changing people’s perceptions of those with the disease. Changing essentially the way that people have thought and lived for hundreds of years. MCPs (multiple concurrent partnerships), transactional sex, intergenerational sex, misuse or no use of condoms; these are all accepted actions that need to change.
Naturally all this talk got me thinking about what we as QPID cooperants have the power to change. In the fight against HIV in the country rated number two in the world for the percentage of adults living with the disease (23% between the ages of 15-49), how can three university students really make a difference? The cynical answer to this is, of course, that we can’t. We can’t in the span of three months, working as lowly interns at a little know NGO, change the course of HIV/AIDS in Botswana. But I refuse to accept this way of thinking. We might not be able to effect the statistics, or help the more than 300,000 people living with HIV, but by even making a tiny contribution to the running of this organisation and their projects I believe that QPID has achieved success.
Talking with several of the senior staff here I have learned that many of them have impressive academic records; with degrees from universities spanning from here in Botswana to the USA. With these degrees, they tell me, they could easily have important, well paying jobs in the big city. Instead, they have chosen to work at a small NGO, fighting for a cause that a lot of Batswana still choose to ignore. “This is a way of giving back to the community,” Kabo said to me, “My country has given so much to me and I feel like this is my time to give back.”
And that is really what True Men is: a community based organisation. Even doing small scale work in this smaller organisation can ultimately have a big impact. It’s all about ripples. By effecting even one person with the work or message, the change can begin. That one person can affect another, and that one another, and so on until suddenly the message has reached far beyond the initial point of contact.
I believe that this ripple effect is what makes the Projects portfolio of QPID so important. This is an opportunity for two organisations and groups of people who would never interact under normal circumstances to create partnerships and collaborations. To create international dialogue and cultural exchange, which we as cooperants can then bring back to share at Queen’s. Our goal is to start ripples within each other’s communities; and with even the tiniest bit of impact we can achieve this.