"I am who I am because of you"

2011 International Forum

The following is the thank you speech written by Lila Pavey, winner of the WUSC Alumni Award at the 2011 International Forum. Lila is a former Uniterra volunteer who now works for WUSC partner Stepping Stones International in Botswana

Read more about Lila and her work in HIV and AIDS and SSI.



Hello, Bonsoir, Dumela,

I wanted to first say thank you. I am truly humbled to be here tonight. I have actually just arrived off a flight from Botswana a few hours ago and feel so refreshed by the energy of all of you. I want to also acknowledge the presence of my mother and father who have also come to support me in this event. This is particularly special to my mother who did not know I was going to be here and also because she too is a former WUSC'er and could not be more proud.

I thought a lot about this award on my way over here and it had me reflecting on a very unique African philosophy of Ubuntu, which boils down to "I am who I am because of you" – for me in the context of this award, the philosophy is very fitting. I am up here receiving this award not just for me, but for my colleagues, the youth and the community in Botswana who have accepted me, guided me and supported me throughout all of my work in the country. I am also here because of WUSC/Uniterra who has enabled me the opportunity to make a difference and I am here because of all of you – the sponsors, the donors, CIDA, and the Canadian government who continues to value the importance of supporting development work.

In yesterday's opening presentation from CIDA we have heard that the face of poverty is now being seen in more urban settings around the world and there is still a tremendous need, even in places presumed to have money, structures or services. Botswana for instance may be a middle income country, but the need for continued support is huge. Botswana with it's population of 1.8 million people has the second highest HIV prevalence rate in the world. It is estimated that 17.6% of the population between the ages of 18 months to 74 years  is currently living with the virus and of those the majority are female. It is also estimated that because of HIV 16 out of every 100 children under the age of 18 are currently orphaned. In the areas of prevention, treatment, and care, Botswana still needs support.

The celebration of this Award for the work I've been able to contribute to in Botswana represents a collaborative effort – “I am who I am because of you".

Thank you so much - Ke a leboga thata thata.

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