First Lady's Visit Lifts the Spirits of Peace Corps Volunteers in Botswana

Meeting new people is part of the fun of being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Botswana. When I first arrived I lived in a village for 2 months to start learning the language and culture; I stayed with a host family and met someone new almost every day. Then I moved to the village I have lived in for the past year, and part of the integration process was to meet as many people as I could. I kind of got used to the normal conversations and daily routines. I can honestly say I never thought one of the people I would meet here would be the First Lady of the United States, but that changed on Saturday when Mrs. Obama took the time to thank US Mission staff and Peace Corps Volunteers in Gaborone.

The First Lady was hosted and introduced by US Ambassador Gavin in the backyard of her home. Mrs. Obama's gentle grace balanced by her purposeful presence immediately captured everyone's attention. She started by thanking everyone for braving the cold winter day, which no one seemed to notice the second she came on stage. She thanked US Mission staff for what she called the true work of diplomacy and for the sacrifices they make, especially in leaving families back home. Then she gave a special shout out to recognize the Peace Corps, which was met with loud applause and cheers from the Volunteers. She mentioned how many people don't understand how much work is done overseas by Americans with the US Government.

Mrs. Obama stressed that the relationship between Botswana and the United States is an important one that she was recognizing with her visit. When talking about Botswana, she said, "This is the reflection of the model of a mature, vibrant African democracy." She talked about being happy with the progress that has been made and said she is looking forward to more advancements. She ended her remarks by saying the US Mission workers and Peace Corps Volunteers have made the visit a special one.

Mrs. Obama then went into the audience to shake hands and personally thank people for their service. Peace Corps Volunteer Omosalewa Oyelaran said, "It was an honor to be in the humble presence of such a dedicated public servant and to be in the community that welcomed her just as we as volunteers have been welcomed to Botswana." Numerous volunteers' eyes filled with tears as Mrs. Obama reached out her hand to thank them. The experience brought out many emotions as people felt connected to the administration at home and the purpose that brought them to Botswana. Americans in public service working overseas deal with many challenges and this rare chance of meeting the First Lady lifted the spirits of everyone she touched.