Mmegi Blogs :: The contribution of volunteers to this country
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Monday 22 January 2018, 00:00 am.
The contribution of volunteers to this country

Meeting up last week with three of the first Peace Corps volunteers in Mochudi was a lovely occasion. One, Gary Whisler, has re-settled in Mochudi, another, Sheldon Praiser, was here for a visit a few years back whilst Tom Anderson had not seen the place since he left it 48 years ago.
By Sandy Grant Wed 05 Oct 2016, 16:32 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: The contribution of volunteers to this country

As was to be imagined, all of them had interesting recollections of that time, Tom recalling what a fine administrator David Maine had been at Molefi School and for him what a wonderful father figure he had been.

Unsurprisingly, too there was comment about the tennis at the Community Centre with both Tom and Sheldon, seen in this 1967 photo playing with Jimmy Moilwa, Levi Mfazi and a Gaborone based volunteer, Sam Caldwell. Today, that scenario is long gone, nothing being fixed in time. But because the `Peace Corps had to wait for Boipuso before it could make its contribution here, it was not too surprising that those first Mochudi PCVs should have found an 18-year- old British volunteer, Graham de Freitas, already teaching at Molefi  and Johnny Gumb, printer extraordinaire, at the Community Centre.  All, however, had been pre-dated by three British volunteers, amongst them, Patrick Kidner, who had been sent to this country by Alec Dickson in 1960. Dickson’s establishment of Voluntary Service Overseas was just one element in an explosion of creative, innovative thinking in England which was to have a major impact on this country, as well as on other newly- independent African states.

Dickson, for instance, was invited to Washington by President Kennedy to advise on setting up Peace Corps. Small wonder that Dickson who saw his new scheme for 18/19 year olds as a


means of empowering youth, became a member of the London Committee for the newly established Community Centre in Mochudi.  It wasn’t long, however, before other volunteers arrived such as the British IVS which soon replaced Dickson’s VSO, and the Mennonites for whom, for a time in the early 1970s, I was its country representative.

Unsurprisingly, I have a special regard for its volunteers during those years, American and Canadian, who did such great jobs. And then there were volunteers from other countries, from Norway and Japan, and doubtless from the Netherlands and Australia.

The particular focus for many volunteers was inevitably Swaneng and the Brigades, firstly in Serowe and then across the entire country.  Bit by bit, however,  the scene changed. As the country developed, the need for foreign aid and foreign volunteers began to fall away. 

Every one of those many hundreds of volunteers, however, had made their own particular contribution, some young, others much older but all having made friends, with some marrying here, all returning to their homes with a special affection for this country. No attempt has yet been made to assess the overall effect of this foreign contribution over the 50-years period but obviously it has been monumental. It would be no bad idea if thought could be given to commissioning an appropriate book - the government perhaps or a consortium of volunteer organisations?


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