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Treva H.

“I have learned how special it is to live in a place where you can rely on your neighbors and feel safe and welcome wherever you go.”

Treva H Headshot

1. What got you interested in the Peace Corps?

When I was in high school, I had two very impactful teachers who were Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) and loved to talk about their experiences. That is how I was introduced to the organization, and my admiration for the collaborative work fostered by the Peace Corps has only grown since then. Throughout high school and college, I volunteered in a tutoring program for refugee and immigrant kids in a nearby town, and along the way met some extraordinary people, students, and other Returned Volunteers, who continued to spark my passion for service and helping youth. As a psychology student in college, I became increasingly interested in the way humans engage with and understand each other, especially when it comes to intercultural interactions. As I began to think of what my future could look like after school, I knew that Peace Corps service could be an amazing next step for me.

2. What projects are you working on?

I spent most of my first several months getting more acquainted with the junior secondary school. My primary assignment is to support the guidance and counseling office. While learning about the school, students, and community, I have become familiar with the local guidance and counseling curriculum, co-developed lesson plans with my counterpart, and co-facilitated classes with students ages 12 to 16.

In the past two school terms, I have helped to plan and facilitate health talks for the students. Representatives from the police, clinic, and social and community development office presented on a variety of health topics, such as self care and stress management, the importance of preserving evidence for the police, and safe male circumcision. For International Women’s Day I also co-facilitated a girls’ talk with my counterpart where we provided a safe space to discuss topics of inclusion, empowerment, leadership, and feminine hygiene. Currently the main project my supervisor, counterpart, and I are working on is implementing a PACT club (Peer Approach to Counseling by Teens) in the junior secondary school. We hope to inspire a positive mindset, build lifelong skills, and motivate the students through this initiative. Additionally, we will be implementing the Life Skills+ program to provide comprehensive life skills, financial literacy, HIV/AIDS prevention, and sexual education for adolescents. We plan to reach out to youth through outside teen clubs and get them involved with Grassroot Soccer as well.

Treva helps out at the local clinic in the village where she lives in Botswana.
Treva engages youth in health-related activities and helps out at the local clinic (pictured here) in Botswana.

3. What strategies have you used to integrate into your community?

I feel grateful that my community has been so welcoming as I’ve settled in. Integrating can be a daunting process, so I’ve challenged myself to get out in the community to get know people. I start conversations on my daily walks to work and ask many questions to get to know others better. At school, I joined a women’s club for staff known as the “Ladies Wing.” I attend soccer games with the school’s social club, and I try to sit and converse with the other staff members when I have free time. Additionally, over the holidays I spent some time working at the local clinic and social and community development office to familiarize myself with their services and help whenever I can.

An important part of integration is also learning the culture and way of life, so I’ve made an effort to understand how certain things are done and implement these practices in my own life. This includes handwashing laundry, learning to cook traditional foods, and finding best practices for conserving water. I use the local language whenever I can, and I make sure to greet everyone in culturally appropriate ways.

4. What is a highlight of your time in service so far?

The highlight so far has definitely been working with the students. Although I am new to the community and primarily speak a different language, many students visit me in the office, whether to talk about a personal matter, ask questions related to their lessons, or just check in and say dumela (hello).

Students have been very receptive in my classes and have already inspired me in many ways, fueling my purpose and passion. On several occasions, students have come up to me following our lessons to ask for help with career planning, and provide their own ideas about how I can be of service to the school. When young students demonstrate their own initiative, confidence, kindness, and eagerness to learn, I am always reminded of how fortunate I am to work with this school of bright and passionate boys and girls.

5. What have you enjoyed most about the community where you are serving?

I enjoy how tightly knit the community is. In meetings with school and community leaders, and community events, I see that everyone looks out for each other. The community has a population of around 5,000 which means there are resources and structures in place to help community members, but everyone also seems to know one another. As I am walking down the street or entering a building, I’ll often be greeted with a cheerful “Dumela, Naledi!” (“Hello, Star)!” (Star is my Setswana name.) This never fails to bring a smile to my face. I find the close sense of community to be extremely heartwarming.

6. What are some of the most important things you’ve learned from your community?

I have learned how special it is to live in a place where you can rely on your neighbors and feel safe and welcome wherever you go. I’ve also learned the value of giving and helping whenever possible. I often see how people selfless and helpful people here are. It is a mindset that is inspiring to me.

For example, weddings and funerals are big community-wide events in Botswana. Funerals generally take place on the weekends. On the days leading up to the service, there will be prayers and time for mourners to come and appreciate the life of the deceased. People are always willing to lend a hand and help throughout the week, whether it’s helping to organize, set up, spread the word, cook, or provide monetary contributions.

From the start I felt immediately welcomed into my host family; they always help me integrate and feel more comfortable. After getting to know them more, I realized that this generosity has deep roots in Batswana values.

Treva's home in Botswana
Treva is inspired by the sense of community in her Botswana village.

7. How do you spend time when you are not working on a project?

When I am not working on a school-related project or teaching, I usually spend time getting to know the staff and sharing about our respective cultures. My favorite cultural exchange moments have come from conversations about gender norms, family roles, and relationship dynamics. While I hold strong views on these topics, I recognize that my personal experience and upbringing has a substantial influence on that. Because of this, I love to hear perspectives from individuals in my village who are willing to share their own experiences, opinions, and beliefs. This has also allowed me to share more about the U.S. and how social norms and ideas are constantly evolving, while learning more about the evolving culture here in Botswana.

When I am not at work, I spend most of my free time reading, cooking, and exercising. On weekends, I use the time to deep clean my house, do my laundry, reset, and get my shopping done in a nearby village. Luckily, I also get to meet up with a fellow Volunteer who shops in the same village. I also spend a lot of time hanging out with the kids in my compound. We like to play cards, work on their homework, and occasionally bake or make big family breakfasts.

8. What are you looking forward to in your remaining time as a Volunteer?

I am looking forward to getting even more comfortable at my workplace and in my community. In my experience, the best work gets done once strong relationships are built, so in the coming months, I will work on strengthening those ties and building the trust that is required for community action to take place. I also look forward to exploring more of this beautiful country and becoming more familiar with the culture and customs.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Chobe National Park and then crossed the border to Zambia to see famous Victoria Falls. I also plan to spend time in the Okavango Delta in the northwestern region of Botswana and hope to explore the Central Kalahari as well.

9. Once you finish your service, what will you do differently when you return to the U.S.?

I have learned how important it is to not only greet and acknowledge everyone, but also to take time to get to know them on a more personal level. In the U.S., we tend to be a bit more individualistic, especially in business, but I admire the way the Batswana build and maintain relationships. It is both personally fulfilling and beneficial, so this is a skill that I am learning. When I return to the U.S., I will continue this mindset of fostering connections in all areas of life.