Mmegi Online :: Rothschilds espouse vision 2016 ideals
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Last Updated
Friday 24 November 2017, 17:23 pm.
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Rothschilds espouse vision 2016 ideals

Before they hit these shores more than five years ago, a retired American couple, Bob and Sara Rothschild had never heard of Vision 2016. But they have now become part and parcel of the country's road map.
By Lekopanye Mooketsi
Correspondent
(GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Rothschilds espouse vision 2016 ideals








The couple have embraced the ideals of one of the pillars of Vision 2016: to make Botswana 'an informed and educated nation'. The couple are fulfilling this by building libraries in the country, through their self-funded organisation, Bob & Sara Rothschild Family Foundation. Since 2007, the Rothschilds have built six libraries in different parts of the country. 

The seventh library which is under construction at Phitshane Molopo in Borolong, is expected to be complete early next year.  This will be followed by another library in Moremaoto in the Boteti region, after which the next facility will be erected in Shakawe in the Okavango region. So far the foundation has built libraries at Mankgodi, Ramokgonami, Matlhako in Tswapong, Botswana Defence Force (BDF) camp in Mogoditshane, Molalatau and Kopong. The first library which was put up by the Foundation was built in Mankgodi in 2007. A fortnight ago, President Ian Khama toured the Kopong library which was built in 2008. 

The Rothchild's philanthropy has not gone unnoticed. The government has shown that it appreciates the Rothschilds' initiatives as President Khama honoured them on the eve of Independence Day with the Presidential Order of Meritorious Service, an honour usually bestowed on Botswana citizens. Commenting on their award, Sara said they were humbled to be nominated and did not expect the award. The Foundation works in conjunction with the Botswana National Library Service (BNLS) and the communities in which the libraries are located.

One of the criterions for the project is that community members should show interest.  "The local people have to show interest in the project. They have to understand the philosophy of volunteerism," says Bob, adding that the community has to become an integral part of the project. The community has to own the library and help with the construction by providing labour.

Another critical area is the location of the library. It has to be located somewhere in the centre of the village either near the kgotla, the post office or a school. Bob said they engage local companies to build the libraries. Residents are also given a priority when the library hires auxiliary staff. 

In addition, Bob said they have done interviews with elders to capture the history of the villages where they have built libraries. This information has been stored on DVDs for public

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viewing. They also intend to conduct interviews with traditional doctors about their craft. The DVD on traditional medicine will also be available for viewing in libraries.

The Rothschilds are from New Hemisphere in the United States.  They spendsome of their time in the US but visit Botswana regularly to supervise their projects. Bob is a retired farmer, food manufacturer and construction engineer. His wife was once a nursing tutor at an American university. They started their foundation in 2005.

Sara was the first one to come to Botswana when she worked for Habitat Humanitarian, based at Matlhako and this is where she became acquainted with rural communities. "It was a wonderful experience to know the people," she said. 

She recalls that during that time, there was no electricity in the tiny village which is renowned for its Morula trees."We stayed in tents near the kgotla," she said.  Sara said when she was with Habitat Humanitarian, they built two houses for some senior citizens.  Bob joined her later in Botswana. During that time, they felt that there was a need for a library in their "home village" but they could not start with Matlhako because there was no electricity. The Matlhako library became the fourth one they built.  Bob said when they conceived the idea, the intention was to build two libraries every year. Things seem to be going according to the plan. By the time the project comes to the end of its 10-year period in 2017, they want to have constructed 20 libraries. The Rothschilds have learnt positive lessons from the country. They have been fascinated by the country they have adopted as their second home. Bob said when he arrived in the country, he was pleasantly surprised by what he found. He says in countries like US, they are always bombarded with negative reports about Africa. The reports were contrary to what they found in the country.

"Botswana is a very fascinating country". 

The Rothchilds have been touched by Batswana's attitude of 'ntwa kgolo ke ya molomo', which is a peaceful approach of resolving disputes.  

"Even the international community will have to learn how Batswana talk and talk until they resolve their issues," said Sarah. 

The Rothschilds have also embarked on a similar project in South Africa that has yielded two libraries.

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