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WINTER 2014 9

review mental health patients and see if they are getting adequate

care. Another equally important role is to review patients who

have committed acts of violence under psychiatric conditions who

are in the mental health hospital or in the prison system. Through

these visits we hear their cases and are expected to give our clinical

assessment and recommendations—almost like a parole—but, in

this case, for presidential pardon. It is a highly sensitive exercise.

I used to wonder “why” I was selected for the board and then the

question evolved to “what” am I going to do with what I have

learned being on the board. The one thing that I am certain at

this time is that punitive measures are not rehabilitative; we are in

desperate need of restorative programs.

What I have realized is that our prison system is somewhat of

a catchment area for people with serious mental health problems.

Young people are disproportionately represented. We do not have

adequate mental health facilities for people to receive services, but

over and above that, our young people do not have facilities to

engage in productive, useful activities that benefit them mentally

and physically. We have one mental health hospital in a country

of two million people.

Your dissertation research project was on the training

needs of para-professionals working with persons

living with HIV/AIDS in Botswana. What is the

current situation for education of mental health

professionals in Botswana? What is your role in

training these professionals?

Our university does not have a graduate program for

psychology at this time. The University of Botswana does,

however, offer master’s programs in social work. Because of the

overwhelming need for psychological services, I have decided

to be creative and innovative in expanding our services. So I

have embarked on training service providers who are first-line

responders to people at risk of mental health disorders. I have

embarked on “heal the healer” campaigns to offer respite and

debriefing to a lot of these first-line responders because of the

high incidence of burnout, apathy, and poor service provision at

public centers.

I have jumped off the HIV/AIDS bandwagon. I started

feeling like the response is being done in a vacuum and that there

are other drivers of the problem that are not being addressed,

especially those related to mental health. I read recently that,

“like a bad dye job, the truth lies in its roots.” I laughed so hard

at this truth and also because I have recently started graying and

I realized no amount of hair dye can hide the aging process. But

what I appreciated the most about that statement, is it allowed me

to take an honest assessment of Botswana’s situation.

I really cannot say HIV/AIDS is our biggest problem. I think

HIV/AIDS has sidetracked us from our greatness and we have

been putting out fires since. We are a country that has received

more than $1 billion in donor money and we cannot really

show for it. If we had routed some of that money into building

playgrounds, children’s museums, sport and recreational centers

for children and youth we would have invested well. In other

words I feel like we are attending to symptoms not the roots of

our problem.

The experience I have had in Botswana since my return has

led me to start my own organization. I called it AfroBotho,

“realizing our infinite oneness,” and it does both training and

consultations. However, I am also in the process of registering

a foundation that would allow us to train the transitional youth

who are unemployed by running groups for them to counter

depression and feelings of hopelessness that I believe results in

engaging in unprotected sex and risky behaviors that we are

already witnessing. The reason for starting the foundation is that

none of the donors or the government would sponsor the activities

despite the glaring need for it because they all stipulate assistance

must go to non-profit organizations.

I have always wanted to be a humanitarian. I have decided

to be a humanitarian taking the social entrepreneur route. There

is a lack of resources in Africa, and we really cannot afford to

do things not-for-profit and for free. We need to start engaging

in interventions that will help the next person with a grand

idea but no resources, and wanting to make a change. I would

like to be able to fund such people in the next 10 years to solve

local problems.

“Botho” means “I am because you are.” It is a value of our

people, of how we define being human on this side of the world.

When I came back home I decided to resuscitate this value,

realizing it has remained in a vacuum and has largely disappeared

from our daily practices. My commitment is to resuscitate

this spirit of community reliance again through the

AfroBotho Foundation.

I aspire to generate enough donations from the nation to

build our very first children’s museum. This will not be like

any other museum; it will be a one-stop shop for children and

young people to access recreation and basic care such as dental,

optical, medical, and mental health services. I am not alone in

this. I have youth mentees that I have been working with who are

informing the programs we are designing. I am merely guiding

the process. Unlike most of my cohorts, I do not have the luxury

of already established interventions. I have had to be innovative in

addressing the social gaps that exists.