November 19, 2012

Featured Millennial: Leia D'Amboise Demonstrates Meaning of Thanksgiving

Leia D'Amboise | Featured Saratoga Millennial | Saratoga Millennial
Featured Millennial Leia D'Amboise of Clifton Park
Saratoga Millennials have a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.

Saratoga County enjoys low crime rates, there is plenty of access to clean water and food, and issues like disease and poverty just aren't as prevalent as they are in three-quarters of the rest of the world.

So when it comes to Thanksgiving, the holiday can take on more of a habitual spin than a day where people really do stop and give thanks for what they have, while reflecting on how devastating life is for many others.

This is not the case for Clifton Park native and Shenendehowa graduate Leia D'Amboise.

While many area residents will be gathered with their families this Thursday around the table and turkey, D'Amboise will be continuing her work with the United State Peace Corps in Botswana.

"I was eight years old when I first heard about the Peace Corps through  a friend who's sister was serving in Bolivia," said D'Amboise.

"Ever since then, I've wanted to serve my country as a Peace Corps Volunteer."

Acting as the "Local Government Capacity Builder," D'Amboise spends each day working to empower locals by teaching them modern life skills that span from education on disease and prevention to learning how to type on a computer.

While known as the "Pearl of Africa" for its peaceful conditions and strong economy, Botswana suffers from having the second highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world.

All Peace Corps volunteers placed in Botswana are tasked with jobs to find innovative ways to help the country reach its goal of zero new HIV infections by 2016.

"The area where I live,
Bobirwa sub-district, is the hardest hit in the country," said D'Amboise.

Saratoga Millennial - Clifton Park residents serves in Peace Corps
Working with the children of Botswana
"Our incidence rate is 5.6%, meaning that 5.6% of the population is newly affected with HIV. This is dramatically high compared to the national incidence rate of 2.9%, which in itself is very high. The virus affects the labor force, thousands of children are left as orphans, and billions of Pula (Botswana’s currency) has been poured into HIV response and mitigation."

To make matters worse, the country also suffers from extreme drought and desertification. What's difficult about addressing these issues is the fact that the population is still transitioning into a complete, modern country that not only utilizes contemporary technology, but also understands the way of the world.

"If you ask someone in my village why there hasn’t been rain, most likely they’ll tell you it’s because of the witches," said D'Amboise.

"The government is working on technologically modern ways to bring water to Botswana. However, you can really see the traditional and modern clashing in this
country. But that’s Botswana, the juxtaposition of two worlds. It’s not out of the ordinary to see a man talking on a cell phone while driving a donkey cart."

Leia ends her service in June 2014. While she says that she is looking forward to Stewart's ice cream and seeing the Fourth of July fireworks at the Clifton Park Commons, she also encourages Clifton Park Millennials to get involved.

"Serving as a Peace Corps volunteer has allowed me to learn more about myself and my own culture—and that was gained by simply taking myself out of a comfortable context."

You can follow Leia and her work/travels in Botswana by checking out her blog:

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