Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Diversity Camp


The Peace Corps volunteers here in Lesotho are involved in all kinds of exciting activities. The two broad categories are: 1) education; and 2) community health and economic development. These, as near as I can tell, can be interpreted to encompass just about anything that makes a positive contribution to the community. For instance...

Kathy and I were fortunate enough to attend one of the sessions at a Diversity Camp recently put on by a group of Peace Corps volunteers, in collaboration with their community partners. They brought together a few dozen students in their teens for a couple of days at a site just outside Maseru. Some slept in buildings on the little "campus" there, while others slept in tents. During the day, they attended workshops on a variety of diversity-related topics.

Some of the staff (including the amazingly talented Country Director), an interpreter and community collaborator, a volunteer, and yours truly posing outside the venue:

The session we witnessed featured a Chinese woman who owns and operates a garment factory in Lesotho. There are a few such Chinese-owned factories in Lesotho, though I gather that their number is declining, with effects quite similar to those anywhere else when jobs disappear. She talked about the experience of being a business owner in Lesotho, as well as the experience of being Chinese in Lesotho, including some of the discrimination she has faced - and overcome.

The students asked some really interesting and pointed questions, including some that highlighted cultural differences (about why Chinese businesses are open Saturday and Sunday) and the tragedy of HIV/AIDS - and to some extent TB - in Lesotho (about the clinics that many Chinese-owned factories provide).

I must say I am sorry I could not stay for some of the other sessions, as I feel I learned a great deal from this one. As did, apparently, some of the Peace Corps volunteers who helped to run the Camp. Here are a couple of them taking notes:

And some of the staff (including the Country Director) and another volunteer paying close attention:

At the end, we were treated to singing, too. I have posted videos of these: first from the students (singing begins about 30 seconds into the video); and then from the factory owner from Taiwan. Very cool.

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