March 10, 2005: Headlines: COS - Botswana: Lebanon Daily Record: Nicole Hutton to serve in Botswana as Peace Corps volunteer

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Botswana: Peace Corps Botswana : The Peace Corps in Botswana: March 10, 2005: Headlines: COS - Botswana: Lebanon Daily Record: Nicole Hutton to serve in Botswana as Peace Corps volunteer

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Nicole Hutton to serve in Botswana as Peace Corps volunteer

Nicole Hutton to serve in Botswana as Peace Corps volunteer

Nicole Hutton to serve in Botswana as Peace Corps volunteer

Local woman to serve in Botswana as Peace Corps volunteer

By Eric Adams

Lebanon High School and recent University of Missouri-Columbia graduate Nicole Hutton is about to take the trip of a lifetime.

She is beginning a two-year stint Monday with the Peace Corps, serving in Botswana in southern Africa.

"I have always wanted to be a world traveler and I want to use my degree to help others," Hutton said. "I told my Peace Corps recruiter to send me where he needs me."

Hutton said she doesn't know exactly what she will be doing once she gets to Africa. She said a couple of projects the Peace Corps is working on include helping orphans of AIDS victims and AIDS prevention from mothers to their children.

"I've worked with people in need, but I don't really have any experience working with people with HIV/AIDS," Hutton said. "I haven't really thought too much about the dangers because I'm afraid I would get too anxious and chicken out. I'll cross those bridges when I get to them."

Hutton has a degree in social work and the Peace Corps is seeking volunteers with degrees in health, medical and social work for work in Botswana. She said some volunteers will be reporting to medical personnel and others will be reporting to social workers.

Hutton will begin her service by flying from St. Louis to Philadelphia on Monday for three days of orientation. She said she will be meeting the other volunteers that are going to Botswana.

"Right now, my biggest priority is packing," Hutton said. "I have to pack for two years and it's hard because I can only take 80 pounds of luggage. I turns out that I have a lot of shoes and clothes and I have to weed it down to 80 pounds."

Botswana borders Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. It has warm winters and hot summers.

"I hope I'll learn how to live more simply while I'm in Africa," Hutton said. "I don't think I'm any worse than any other American, but we are trained that we need a lot of stuff. I expect this to be a liberating experience.

"I'm trying to pack things that are durable and lightweight because it gets really hot. The most important thing is that I want to fit into their culture."

Hutton was told that women dress conservatively in Botswana. She plans to dress professionally so she can give a good image of someone who is trying to help.

After three days of orientation, Hutton will fly to Africa to begin 10 weeks of training in Molepolole, just north of the capital. The training will include learning the native language as well as culture, health and safety issues.

"One thing I hope I can do is help people overcome this whole web of superstition and stereotypes about AIDS," Hutton said. "Some people think that AIDS is a punishment for something they did."

According to the Central Intelligence Agency World Fact Book, Botswana has one of the world's highest known rates of HIV/AIDS infection at 37.3 percent of adults -- totaling 350,000 of its 1.7 million population. In 2003, it was estimated that 33,000 people in Botswana died of HIV/AIDS.

"Looking at statistics about AIDS is really scary," Hutton said. "Hopefully we will be given a lot of information about safety precautions to take as well as how to adjust to a populations where a third of the people are sick."

The World Fact Book states that Botswana has one of Africa's most progressive and comprehensive programs for dealing with the disease. Some 34,500 people are now receiving life-prolonging anti-retroviral drug treatment.

"In my field, there are a lot of risks," Hutton said. "I have put myself in a lot of vulnerable positions with my background working with domestic-violence victims."

Hutton said she has a passion for working with women and children. She said people in crisis often are in a vulnerable position. She is reassured that she will not be administering medical care, but will be counseling and educating people about resources.

"What I hope I can do is spread awareness about what causes AIDS and how people can get it," Hutton said. "I want to dispel some of the myths."

While Botswana is slightly smaller than Texas, it extremely different than any U.S. state. One of the commonalities is that English is the primary language.

"I don't speak a foreign language so that was a determining factor where I was sent," Hutton said. "I want to broaden my perspective and my skills."

Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name upon independence in 1966. Four decades of uninterrupted civilian leadership, progressive social policies and significant capital investment have created one of the most dynamic economies in Africa.

While Hutton is not working, she plans to travel. She said has always had an interest in traveling to South Africa.

"I'm going to miss my family, especially my sisters," Hutton said. "I've threatened that they can't get married until I get back."

Nicole Hutton's family includes Laclede County Conservation Agent Walt Hutton and mother Annette Hutton. She has three sisters: Jessica, Patrice and Kelsey.

"My family has told me they are very proud of me, but they are very worried for me too," Nicole Hutton said. "My parents and sisters are all very supportive."

Nicole said she would like to get a master's degree after her two years in the Peace Corps. She said her interest is in the community-health field.

When this story was posted in March 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Lebanon Daily Record

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Botswana



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