The HIV/AIDS scourge has had a devastating impact on Botswana. Despite significant financial investment in both prevention and treatment, the HIV prevalence rate among adults between the ages of 15 and 49 is about 24 per cent which is among the highest in sub-Sahara Africa.
Toronto resident Micah Nelson did not hesitate when she was offered an opportunity to take part in a five-month internship in the landlocked southern African country. She and 19 other youth interns left Canada last Saturday to participate in the Coady International Institute’s “Youth in Partnership” program in Gaborone, the country’s capital.
“I am excited to be going to Botswana because this is my first visit to Africa,” said Nelson. “While there, I will be working with the youth health organization that provides HIV/AIDS educational programming for young people and assisting with life skills training sessions through soccer, marketing, business development, monitoring and evaluation.
“As a young person of both Canadian and Caribbean background, this is an amazing opportunity to work in Africa both personally and professionally. I am looking forward to the opportunity that will also give me a chance to prepare an arts festival that promotes HIV/AIDS education and awareness.”
Nelson underwent an intense two-week orientation session at the Coady Institute at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia for the Canadian International Development Agency-funded internship that helps young people increase their understanding of global development issues while contributing to the Coady Institute’s overseas partnerships.
A graduate of Cawthra Park Secondary School’s arts program, Nelson secured an honours degree in International Development Studies from McGill University before embarking on an internship in Chile and Brazil.
She returned to Toronto two years ago to complete a post-graduate degree in International Project Management at Humber College before interning last summer with WeirFoulds, a Central Canadian regional law firm.
“That was an amazing experience because I got the opportunity to be exposed to Frank Walwyn (president of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers) who was my mentor,” said Nelson, who aspires to work in the international development field. “He was an amazing mentor and I worked on a project that looked at development opportunities in the Caribbean.”
Nelson, whose mother is actress, model and TV producer Linda Carter, said her internship in South America has prepared her for the African assignment. She also said some of the people she met in Chile were deeply affected by last month’s earthquake.
“There was this one particular girl (Chantel Jean) who goes to school in Chile and we became friends,” said Nelson. “She was in Chile when that earthquake hit and she was also vacationing in her home country Haiti when that deadly earthquake struck in January. I am very worried about the psychological issues and post-traumatic stress she’s under because of what she has gone through in the last three months. I have been online with her trying to be very supportive.”
Nelson’s grandfather’s is George Carter who was the first Black Canadian-born judge to be appointed to the Bench in Ontario.