Skip to main content

Kayla Donnawell

SFU Co-op Student
Science › Biomedical Physiology + Kinesiology

empty
Okavango delta, botswana; sunset over water
Credit
unsplash.com
My perception of literacy and how important it really becomes apparent to me when we asked the young mother to sign the form to recommend her for school funding.

Kayla Donnawell, an SFU Kinesiology student, is no stranger to International Co-operative Education.  Prior to leaving for her third international experience in Botswana, Kayla completed two co-op terms: as a research assistant for the Divers Alert Network in Durham, North Carolina and in Georgetown, Cayman Islands conducting stingray research.

Currently, Kayla's newest co-op experience is in Botswana, Africa with the Students Without Borders program (SWB), administered by the World University Service of Canada.

Map of Botswana

I'm in Botswana (a little land-locked country just North of South Africa...still confused, just pull out your friendly classroom atlas). I'll be here for the next few months working at a hospice that cares for HIV/AIDS patients. I thought I would share a little about the things I've seen and done since I've been here.

Life here is different, I hardly know where to start, but here are a few highlights:

Everyone here knows how to speak English (for the most part), but everyone converses in Setswana, a native language that definitely does not share any linguistic roots with English. For example, the word "Hi" in Setswana is "Dumjala" Learning names here is near impossible because I just can't seem to comprehend the pronunciation of names with four consonants in a row, but I'm sure it will come with time.

I get everywhere by combi, these fabulous little VW vans inevitably crammed full. Being stuffed into these little sardine cans wouldn't be too bad if it wasn't 35 degrees. To top it off, being the only white girl in the combi always gets you a few good looks, but it is always better if you can get three white girls in the combi, in fact, it is sure to be an entertaining ride in which we are a huge joke.

The traditional food here is kind of like porridge, when you eat it you feel like there is a brick sitting in your stomach. It is absolutely tasteless. What is better is the main food group in this country is beef, beef and more beef.

Life in Gabs (short for Gaborone) is a little different. Things here can be pretty sketchy; you have to be really careful about where and when you go. Going anywhere at night, even one block, unless by taxi is completely out of the question. There is a guard outside our house at night, and the house has an open-air courtyard in the center which is surrounded by an 8-foot cement wall topped with barbed wire...sound dangerous yet? It's not too bad, I think a lot of it is just for show, but it's a really interesting environment to live in and it teaches you to be very street smart.

I've met some great people since I've arrived, and definitely seen a few things that I will probably have nightmares about for a long time. There are definitely some positives that shine through on a daily basis. For example, yesterday, I spent the day in Old Naledi, the poorest region of Gaborone. We meet with a sixteen your old girl who has a child. The sixteen-year-old mother has never been to school. We were there to get information from her so that we can recommend her as a candidate to be funded to be sent to school.

In North America, we are so privileged, that the idea of someone never going to school and not being literate is incomprehensible. My perception of literacy and how important it really becomes apparent to me when we asked the young mother to sign the form to recommend her for school funding.  She didn't even know how to write her name. It actually came down to her "making her mark" on the page.

On my first day at work, we went out to the garbage dump to try and find a child that needs to be enrolled in school. She was orphaned two years ago because both of her parents have died of AIDS, and her grandmother could no longer care for so many children.  No one was there for her to ensure she could go to school. I can still remember how the stench crawled up my nostrils as we walked around the garbage dump; it was the most awful violent smell I've ever encountered.  The worst part is that when we arrived, we did not find just one child, we found hundreds of people. There were actually cardboard houses set up on top of mountains of garbage. They usually find one dead body per day in this garbage dump. Imagine living and then dying in a garbage dump.

I know that I can not even begin to explain what I have seen, but I would love to share my experiences.  Until next time, take a moment to appreciate that you can spell your name and sleep in a warm safe bed every night.

picture of children; Postcards from Botswana

Beyond the Blog

 

About the Author

Kayla Donnawell

SFU Co-op Student
Science › Biomedical Physiology + Kinesiology
SFU Kinesiology student Kayla Donnawell volunteered with the Students Without Borders program (SWB) in Botswana, Africa.

You Might Like These... Volunteering, Equity, Diversity + Inclusion, Community Engagement, Job Description

Children playing hopscotch
An SFU student perspective on the Big Sisters Study Buddy program

You may have heard of them–you may even have an idea of what they do. But have you ever thought of being one? Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland has been serving girls in one-to-one mentoring relationships since 1960, with the mission of “enhancing the confidence, self-esteem and well-being of girls through supportive friendships with caring women”. Each Big and Little Sister match gets together once a week for at least one year. 

STC West Coast
Alumnus Profile: How Crystal Kwon Advanced Her Career Through Volunteerism

Students often overlook one important benefit of volunteerism. While students realize that scholarships and bursaries usually require community engagement, they often forget that volunteerism can also give you the edge you need after you finish your degree.

Kyle and volunteers
Kyle Jung: Expand Your Horizons through Volunteering

Did you know that you can make a difference through volunteering, as well as discovering your passions and career goals? These are just some of the benefits of volunteering, according to Kyle Jung, a 5th-year SIAT student who is also the Vice President of Operations, Interactive Arts & Technology Student Union (IATSU) and the SFSS Forum Representative.

Okavango delta, botswana; sunset over water
library_books
Blog
Working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients
Community Engagement, Life Experience, International, Volunteering

SFU Kinesiology student Kayla Donnawell is in Botswana, Africa volunteering with the Students Without Borders program (SWB)  In this article, the first of a series, Kayla shares her insights, experiences and reflections of working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients in Gaborone, Botswana.

Okavango delta, botswana; sunset over water
library_books
Blog
Working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients
Community Engagement, Life Experience, International, Volunteering

SFU Kinesiology student Kayla Donnawell is in Botswana, Africa volunteering with the Students Without Borders program (SWB)  In this article, the first of a series, Kayla shares her insights, experiences and reflections of working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients in Gaborone, Botswana.

Okavango delta, botswana; sunset over water
library_books
Blog
Working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients
Community Engagement, Life Experience, International, Volunteering

SFU Kinesiology student Kayla Donnawell is in Botswana, Africa volunteering with the Students Without Borders program (SWB)  In this article, the first of a series, Kayla shares her insights, experiences and reflections of working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients in Gaborone, Botswana.

Okavango delta, botswana; sunset over water
library_books
Blog
Working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients
Community Engagement, Life Experience, International, Volunteering

SFU Kinesiology student Kayla Donnawell is in Botswana, Africa volunteering with the Students Without Borders program (SWB)  In this article, the first of a series, Kayla shares her insights, experiences and reflections of working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients in Gaborone, Botswana.

Okavango delta, botswana; sunset over water
library_books
Blog
Working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients
Community Engagement, Life Experience, International, Volunteering

SFU Kinesiology student Kayla Donnawell is in Botswana, Africa volunteering with the Students Without Borders program (SWB)  In this article, the first of a series, Kayla shares her insights, experiences and reflections of working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients in Gaborone, Botswana.

Okavango delta, botswana; sunset over water
library_books
Blog
Working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients
Community Engagement, Life Experience, International, Volunteering

SFU Kinesiology student Kayla Donnawell is in Botswana, Africa volunteering with the Students Without Borders program (SWB)  In this article, the first of a series, Kayla shares her insights, experiences and reflections of working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients in Gaborone, Botswana.

Okavango delta, botswana; sunset over water
library_books
Blog
Working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients
Community Engagement, Life Experience, International, Volunteering

SFU Kinesiology student Kayla Donnawell is in Botswana, Africa volunteering with the Students Without Borders program (SWB)  In this article, the first of a series, Kayla shares her insights, experiences and reflections of working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients in Gaborone, Botswana.

Okavango delta, botswana; sunset over water
library_books
Blog
Working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients
Community Engagement, Life Experience, International, Volunteering

SFU Kinesiology student Kayla Donnawell is in Botswana, Africa volunteering with the Students Without Borders program (SWB)  In this article, the first of a series, Kayla shares her insights, experiences and reflections of working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients in Gaborone, Botswana.

Okavango delta, botswana; sunset over water
library_books
Blog
Working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients
Community Engagement, Life Experience, International, Volunteering

SFU Kinesiology student Kayla Donnawell is in Botswana, Africa volunteering with the Students Without Borders program (SWB)  In this article, the first of a series, Kayla shares her insights, experiences and reflections of working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients in Gaborone, Botswana.

Okavango delta, botswana; sunset over water
library_books
Blog
Working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients
Community Engagement, Life Experience, International, Volunteering

SFU Kinesiology student Kayla Donnawell is in Botswana, Africa volunteering with the Students Without Borders program (SWB)  In this article, the first of a series, Kayla shares her insights, experiences and reflections of working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients in Gaborone, Botswana.

Okavango delta, botswana; sunset over water
library_books
Blog
Working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients
Community Engagement, Life Experience, International, Volunteering

SFU Kinesiology student Kayla Donnawell is in Botswana, Africa volunteering with the Students Without Borders program (SWB)  In this article, the first of a series, Kayla shares her insights, experiences and reflections of working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients in Gaborone, Botswana.

Okavango delta, botswana; sunset over water
library_books
Blog
Working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients
Community Engagement, Life Experience, International, Volunteering

SFU Kinesiology student Kayla Donnawell is in Botswana, Africa volunteering with the Students Without Borders program (SWB)  In this article, the first of a series, Kayla shares her insights, experiences and reflections of working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients in Gaborone, Botswana.

Okavango delta, botswana; sunset over water
library_books
Blog
Working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients
Community Engagement, Life Experience, International, Volunteering

SFU Kinesiology student Kayla Donnawell is in Botswana, Africa volunteering with the Students Without Borders program (SWB)  In this article, the first of a series, Kayla shares her insights, experiences and reflections of working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients in Gaborone, Botswana.

Okavango delta, botswana; sunset over water
library_books
Blog
Working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients
Community Engagement, Life Experience, International, Volunteering

SFU Kinesiology student Kayla Donnawell is in Botswana, Africa volunteering with the Students Without Borders program (SWB)  In this article, the first of a series, Kayla shares her insights, experiences and reflections of working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients in Gaborone, Botswana.

Okavango delta, botswana; sunset over water
library_books
Blog
Working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients
Community Engagement, Life Experience, International, Volunteering

SFU Kinesiology student Kayla Donnawell is in Botswana, Africa volunteering with the Students Without Borders program (SWB)  In this article, the first of a series, Kayla shares her insights, experiences and reflections of working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients in Gaborone, Botswana.

Okavango delta, botswana; sunset over water
library_books
Blog
Working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients
Community Engagement, Life Experience, International, Volunteering

SFU Kinesiology student Kayla Donnawell is in Botswana, Africa volunteering with the Students Without Borders program (SWB)  In this article, the first of a series, Kayla shares her insights, experiences and reflections of working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients in Gaborone, Botswana.

Okavango delta, botswana; sunset over water
library_books
Blog
Working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients
Community Engagement, Life Experience, International, Volunteering

SFU Kinesiology student Kayla Donnawell is in Botswana, Africa volunteering with the Students Without Borders program (SWB)  In this article, the first of a series, Kayla shares her insights, experiences and reflections of working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients in Gaborone, Botswana.

Okavango delta, botswana; sunset over water
library_books
Blog
Working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients
Community Engagement, Life Experience, International, Volunteering

SFU Kinesiology student Kayla Donnawell is in Botswana, Africa volunteering with the Students Without Borders program (SWB)  In this article, the first of a series, Kayla shares her insights, experiences and reflections of working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients in Gaborone, Botswana.

Okavango delta, botswana; sunset over water
library_books
Blog
Working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients
Community Engagement, Life Experience, International, Volunteering

SFU Kinesiology student Kayla Donnawell is in Botswana, Africa volunteering with the Students Without Borders program (SWB)  In this article, the first of a series, Kayla shares her insights, experiences and reflections of working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients in Gaborone, Botswana.

Okavango delta, botswana; sunset over water
library_books
Blog
Working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients
Community Engagement, Life Experience, International, Volunteering

SFU Kinesiology student Kayla Donnawell is in Botswana, Africa volunteering with the Students Without Borders program (SWB)  In this article, the first of a series, Kayla shares her insights, experiences and reflections of working in a Hospice with HIV/AIDS patients in Gaborone, Botswana.

You Might Like These... Community Engagement

Picture of person look at the apps on their phone; instagram, facebook
The Social Media Network (SFUSMN)

This week, Emily features The Social Media Network as the SFU Club of the Week. Read about how their activities aim to increase students' professional social media prowess!

Trees near a river
Adventures

Marilyn Brennan shares her experiences and adventures while working on a Co-op term for Treaty and Aboriginal Rights Research Department (TARR) at Fort St. John. In Part 2 - Adventures, Marilyn shares with us her first work-related road trip to Doig River First Nation.

Aboriginal Mother House building
Aboriginal Mother Centre

Aboriginal women and their children are among the most discriminated against and socially and economically disadvantaged living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The Aboriginal Mother Centre offers a safe and caring long-term home and all of the resources necessary to assist mothers and their children in realizing a brighter future.