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HIV/AIDS study and service, hosted by Maru-a-Pula School

Dates: June 17 - July 7, 2011
Trip leaders: Richard Kassissieh, Aline Garcia-Rubio
Eligible students: 9th-12th grade
Number of students: 13
Estimated Cost: $4,200

HIV/AIDS is the defining crisis of modern Africa, stripping the continent of its prime work-age population. Botswana has the second highest rate of HIV/AIDS infection worldwide, and southern African countries round out the top ten. Thanks to a relatively modern infrastructure and functional democracy, the Botswana government and humanitarian organizations have responded effectively to the crisis through research, education, and treatment. AIDS is no longer necessarily a death sentence.

Students will study the response to the HIV/AIDS crisis in Botswana and provide direct service through established nonprofit organizations, such as orphanages. Students will determine the research questions and service goals in preparation for the trip. Maru-a-Pula School will be our main host and help us connect with appropriate organizations and service opportunities. The school is well connected with health organizations through alumni, parents, and friends of the school. We are likely to make contact with the Ministry of Health and nonprofit organizations doing education, treatment, and prevention work. Maru-a-Pula itself has a well-established orphan scholarship program, which will allow us to explore their vision and program and get to know scholarship students at Maru-a-Pula.

Study questions may include:

  • What strategies do health officials and nonprofit organizations use to change people’s behaviors?
  • How does a HIV/AIDS drug program in Botswana differ from that in the U.S.?
  • What cultural norms hinder or help efforts to fight the spread of HIV and AIDS?
  • What effects has variable mortality rates had on the country’s productivity and development?
  • How does Botswana’s HIV/AIDS story differ from neighbors South Africa and Zimbabwe?
  • How does HIV/AIDS affect an individual’s life path, whether they or a family member are infected?

The trip itinerary will include

  • Time at Maru-a-Pula School in Gaborone, including visits with individuals, organizations, and service agencies in Gaborone
  • Time in a rural village, to study the HIV/AIDS response there
  • A safari trip to one of the national wildlife preserves

Preliminary Itinerary

June 17 Depart PDX
June 19 Arrive GBE
June 19-26 Gaborone
June 27-29 Work in villages
June 30 - July 4 Okavango Delta
(or other wildlife venue)
July 5-6 Gaborone
July 7 Depart JNB


Richard Kassissieh lived in Botswana and worked at Maru-a-Pula School from 1994 to 1996. He visited Botswana in 2000 and 2006.

Aline Garcia-Rubio has an M.D. and was a family physician before joining Catlin Gabel to teach biology.

Watch a movie about Maru-a-Pula.

Send Richard Kassissieh a message.