For several years we've partnered with Dream Academy to improve the academic standards and performance of a local school outside of the capital city of Gaborone in Oodi, Botswana. This is our fourth summer offering both professional development workshops to the teaching staff as well as a two week STEM camp for middle school students.
Additionally, our team ran a mini-program in a more remote village, Ntlhantlh, where our program and staff were met with warm welcomes from the community and its leaders.
One of our team members, Dean Reasoner, gives an account of his experience "on the ground" in Botswana.
How did Botswana compare with your expectations?
Botswana generally was more developed than I had anticipated. I had read up on the country before my trip and knew that it was a success story for the African continent but was still surprised by just how accessible the country is for visitors. Poverty is certainly visible, especially outside the central business areas, but overall I felt very safe and welcomed by the communities we visited.
What was your favorite moment participating in the camp in Oodi?
My favorite moment in Oodi was arriving at the school in the morning and being greeted by the students. Once we got to know them, they were absolutely thrilled to see us each day. The students would all smile and shout out our names when we drove up in our cars. They loved giving us high fives and saying good morning. Another powerful moment for me
was joining in with the students as they did one of their informal drum circles. The students would often get in groups and tap out beats on anything available (such as the rain collection tanks). I jumped in with a group of them to grab a few more improvised instruments and we worked out some beats together. I really enjoyed seeing how the
kids were able to have fun and play games with almost anything that is available in
What was your overall impression of the village of Ntlhantlh and the school community there?
Ntlhantlh felt a little more organized and tight-knit than the village of Oodi. It seemed to me that Oodi is slowly becoming a suburb of Gabarone and that the changing population may be causing the community to be a little less united. In Ntlhantlh it was clear that the school was a center of the community. We were welcomed by administrators and local government officials on our arrival and at thanked at their closing ceremony. Because the village is more remote, the community generally seemed more connected and supportive of the school.
What surprised you the most about your experience?
I think the biggest surprise for me was how quiet Gabarone and Oodi are. Despite being the capital city, Gabarone is easy to navigate and very calm. I think I was expecting more traffic, street vendors, and general activity but it is really a very orderly place that felt very livable and peaceful. Oodi was larger than I expected but also very calm.
If you could go back with Nacel Open Door and Dream Academy, what would you like to accomplish/ do?
If I had the opportunity to work with this program again, I would like to support a better plan for the computer science component of the camp. Many of the computers were not working and internet access was essentially unavailable. After cleaning up some of the computers during the first week, I was able to plan more realistically for the second week knowing that we had no online resources available. I think that computer skills are an extremely important topic for these kids but it would be best to prepare more activities in advance (e.g. PDFs, software downloads) that do not rely on an internet connection. It would be good next year to do a thorough update on all of the machines before camp begins. I would like to install some software and have a clear plan beforehand to make sure that the time in class is used well from day one.
Has your experience in Botswana had a greater impact on you and your perceptions? How? And will it have a lasting effect on how you live your life?
This experience really helped me to understand and appreciate a part of the world that was essentially unknown to me. Even before I left for Botswana, it got me to read and learn more about the history of southern Africa. I especially valued the chance to speak with the local teachers and form friendships with them. I also saw firsthand the challenges that face this region and the many barriers to success that these children face. I really enjoyed the culture and people of Botswana and absolutely plan to visit again.
To learn more about our initiative with Dream Academy and/ or donate to this important cause, please visit https://dreamacademysoccer.org/.