Philanthropy — Ntobeledzi Boitumelo
Scientist, community builder
Ntobeledzi Boitumelo is an inspirational figure in the social challenges and fight against HIV/AIDS in Botswana.
In 2009, while working on an environmental assessment project for Thune Dam, he overheard two health workers talking about the rigours of raising a child who was born with HIV.
Their conversation really touched him, and he later made enquiries to see how he could assist. After meeting an American Peace Corps volunteer who had decided to extend his stay in Gaborone so he could help children affected and infected by HIV, Boitumelo decided to leave his career as an environmental scientist and cartographer.
He became a volunteer at the Botswana Baylor Children’s Clinical Centre Of Excellence. He was later hired as an administrative assistant, earning much less than what he had been making while working as a scientist.
Through the Young Adult Support Group for Adolescents Living with HIV, Boitumelo dedicated his life to providing children born with HIV with a nurturing environment. The aim of the programme is to enable them to develop a positive outlook on life, and build practical skills that will help them to transition into adulthood.
“The programme enrols young adults who are living with HIV and empowers them by promoting life skills, lifelong learning and a philosophy of self-help. The young adults benefit from sessions such as career planning, life skills, financial literacy and money management,” explained Boitumelo.
Over the years, Boitumelo has progressed from his initial appointment as an administration assistant, as he now coordinates the support group. He has also facilitated for establishment of more support groups throughout the country, providing young adults with psychosocial skills and helping them to develop emotional strength and a positive outlook in life.
“So far, we have formed more than 20 support groups and reached over 1000 young adults,” says Boitumelo.
In 2007, Boitumelo cycled from Francistown to Gaborone to raise funds for the establishment of a toll-free service at Lifeline Botswana, an organisation that provides counselling to ensure the emotional wellness of persons in distress. At the time, he spread the message that the toll-free helpline would help people have easy access to counselling services.
“What has been most gratifying for me was seeing these children growing, passing through university and graduating into a better life. As they graduate from university and start working, many of them come back to help and provide support,” said Boitumelo.— Spike Ganetsang