Georgetown Student Worked to End Poverty in Mabule, Botswana
November 5, 2019 – Mayesha Awal (C’20) traveled to Botswana as part of the Davis Fellows Program during the summer of 2019. Now that she is back, Awal is more motivated than ever to continue helping the people she met there.
Joining the Cause
Awal has worked as a volunteer for SOCOBA since she was a sophomore. SOCOBA works to educate and promote awareness of HIV and AIDS for children and adults in Mabule, Botswana. She met the founders Nick and Sego while working with young girls in DC to develop their computer skills.
“Before joining SOCOBA, I was a biochemistry major. But after starting to intern at SOCOBA and witnessing the work they do first hand, I decided to change to a psychology and government double-major. I felt that I could better help people by developing my skills in these areas.”
Learning from Experience
Before going to Botswana this past summer, Awal primarily worked on creating booklets and handbooks that dealt with HIV and AIDS, mental health, and reproductive health. Though this was rewarding, she wanted to gain more hands-on experience by meeting the individuals she was working to help in person. For this reason, she applied to the Davis Fellowship.
“I wanted to be able to actually meet the people that we were trying to help,” says Awal. “The Davis Fellowship provided me with the funding for my trip to Botswana with Sego, an opportunity I otherwise would not have had.”
While in Mabule, she talked with village members and leaders, all of whom seemed engaged and invested in SOCOBA’s mission. Awal and her team held a Kgotla, or townhall meeting, and a discussion group where they were able to listen to the issues of the people of Mabule first hand. She also met with the youth of the town who were actively engaged in discussing the problems they faced.
“The youth had sung songs, participated in activities, rated health posters of what they want to incorporate in their school,” says Awal. “They had thought-provoking group discussions about the challenges of mental, sexual, and reproductive health and poverty in their village.”
Awal said that these interactions were the most rewarding part of her experience.
“What stuck with me was the narratives of individual people,” Awal says. “Being able to get to know these people from a personal perspective was phenomenal. I didn’t know that this would really change me. Just hearing their stories reminded me how important it is to listen. Now when I work on things, I understand the issues that they face better and feel more prepared to help them.”
Implementing what was learned
Poverty is the number one issue affecting the lives of those individuals living in Mabule. Of the 3,000 residents, only 30 are employed. This drastically impacts the mental, physical, and reproductive health of the village, and has dire implications for its youth.
Awal and her team came away from their time in Botswana more equipped to develop programs that would give aid to the people in Mabule. SOCOBA is currently working on implementing a water initiative, a youth soccer program, and a mentee-mentor initiative that Awal created. She has every intention of continuing this line of work after graduating from Georgetown.
“I feel like there is so much more that has to be done and I want to continue this long-term,” says Awal. “You can’t just go in and do one thing and then forget about it. I want to continue this and sustain the relationships that I built. They really love the message of the organization and they want our help.”
– Shelby Roller