Development cooperation Church cooperation Child sponsor program
Botswana is a land of contrasts. On the one hand, it is known for its incredible natural resources, especially diamonds, which have led to the country being nicknamed ‘the Switzerland of Africa’. On the other hand, one third of the population live below the poverty line. Rapid urbanization has led to a weakening of traditional social safety nets. The HIV/AIDS situation in the country is also alarming: roughly one third of the population are HIV positive. The average life expectancy is under 50 years.
FELM’s partner organisation in the country is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana (ELCB). The Church has tasked itself with helping the weakest members of society, such as people living with HIV and AIDS and the disabled. Botswana was the first country to offer medication to all its HIV positive citizens. Raising awareness concerning HIV and AIDS is a cross-cutting theme in all the work of ELCB and the Church gives social and spiritual support to those affected by the virus.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana has roughly 21,000 members and around 40 congregations. Its congregations are spread around the country, with the largest congregations being in and around the capital city, Gabarone.
ELCB, which relies largely on the input of volunteers and active members, carries out mission work in the poor areas of the country’s second city, Francistown. FELM supports the training of church workers. FELM provides grants so that those who wish to continue their education may study abroad.
Young people are an important part of the congregations. They are trained to work in volunteer activities, where they are given positions of responsibility. For instance, they carry out home visits, run camps and work as group leaders. FELM also supports the Church’s music work, the aim of which is to bring a more Botswanan flavour to music and to the liturgy.
ELCB’s rehabilitation centre in Thuso, in northern Botswana, organises craft courses for disabled people from around the country. The aim is that after the course people would be able to support themselves and their families financially. FELM provides grant support to around 20 of the students at the centre. FELM trains local workers in rehabilitation work that aims to strengthen the development and self-esteem of orphans, the disabled and street children.
The number of AIDS orphans in Botswana is so large that grandparents and relatives find it difficult to cope with raising them. The Church does not have a specific HIV and AIDS programme- rather HIV and AIDS awareness raising is an integral part of all activities. FELM supports a day centre in Gabarone, where people with HIV and AIDS receive food, mental and spiritual support and are encouraged to commit themselves to taking HIV medication. Tens of people have been able to return to normal lives with the support of the centre and some have managed to gain employment.