AIDS Orphans and the SOS Village
Money generated from the diamond industry helps Botswana's disadvantaged
When jewelers are questioned about the evils that diamonds have visited on Western African nations, it might be the right moment to mention the good these gems do through funding charitable and health organizations in southern Africa.
Just outside of Gaborone is one of several compounds containing Botswanas growing orphan population, most of whom have lost their parents to AIDS. The SOS Village provides 266 children and young adults with a family setting. It has some 15 homes, each of which has a mother and a father figure to teach the importance of family, traditional values and responsibilities. Children at SOS receive a basic education. For those who are not rocket scientists, says Derek James, SOS Village national director, basic skills of carpentry welding, plumbing, knitting and basic business practices are taught.
SOS Village survives mainly on government subsidies (20% of revenue) and donations. The government subsidies and many of the donations come from diamond-generated dollars, from the governments part ownership of the mines and from De Beers charitable foundations.
Meanwhile, AIDS is hampering the growth of peaceful democracy in Botswana, where an estimated third of the population is HIV positive. De Beers began to educate its work force about AIDS in 1996, but the effort largely failed because southern Africas governments ignored the issue. De Beers is developing a new strategy, says Gavin Beevers, De Beers director of operations in Johannesburg.
A job description for Derek James would include troop rallying, family mentoring, story reading, tour guiding, squabble negotiating, fund-raising, gardening and accounting. Here, he rallies the kindergarten troops at the SOS Village in Gaborone, Botswana