A light amid the darkness

Portia Mlilo

During these difficult, uncertain times, as Covid-19 lurks with menacing intent, Goratagaone Shakes Seshoka is a shining example that dark days bring out the best in some.

The 37-year-old, a primary school teacher in Jamataka village, has been teaching the 1, 000 strong community about the dangers of Coronavirus.

Seshoka set-up health and advisory information points where he stresses the importance of social distancing, regular hand washing and self-isolation, while also debunking fake news and myths surrounding the virus. He has also designed and installed contact-free hand washing facilities around the village with donated soap.

Last week, in light of his exceptional voluntary service, the Mathathane native was recognised by Her Majesty the Queen as the 137th Commonwealth Point of Light.

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As Head of the Commonwealth, the Queen is thanking inspirational volunteers across the association’s 54 nations.

The Point of Light awards celebrate individuals whose service is making a difference in their communities and whose stories can inspire others to creative solutions to challenges in their own communities and beyond.

The Voice’s Portia Mlilo caught up with Seshoka to find out a bit more about his volunteerism work and the man behind it.

Q. Congratulations on the Point of Light Award, how much does this mean to you?

Thank you very much, I appreciate it.

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On behalf of the Jamataka community I serve and the beautiful republic of Botswana, I am truly humbled that I have been considered and chosen for such a prestigious award.

This award means a lot to me, as it will motivate me to keeping going, doing the best that I can.

I wish to proffer my sincere gratitude to ‘EmPowered FinTech’, colleagues and the British High Commission for the support and ultimately the recognition.

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Truly speaking, it’s all about the people of this village.

Q. What was your reaction when you received the news?

Well it came as a shock at first, because I did not do this expecting any reward.

I am doing it because I know it is a good thing to do it and then I was rewarded.

I am extremely happy.

It can only be God.

I hope the award will help inspire others to make their own contribution to tackling some of the greatest social challenges of our time, including the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Q. What inspired your volunteerism?

I am always inspired by my surroundings and this time around the television also played a pivotal role looking at how the disease killed people in different countries.

My work concerning Covid was basically artistic within my place of work (school); that is to design posters that convey the message in the form of pictures and messages – this was done prior to state of emergency commencing.

Q. So how did the British High Commission find out about your volunteerism work?

I would like to thank Solafin-2-Go Company Director, Eunice Ntobedzi as she is the one who advised me to submit my profile for this award when she found out about this Covid-19 project.

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We worked with them when they were installing prototype solar panels at Jamataka.

She was impressed by my volunteerism work and told me about the award.

Q. I understand you established health and advisory points around the village – what precautionary measures do you take to ensure social distancing?

The health and advisory points were done within the school because that is where there was a lot of movement, where people were applying for permits.

As they came, I shared the message about Covid-19 and some asked questions where they do not understand.

I am teaching them about compliance with health care regulations like washing hands, using sanitizer and keeping the recommended distance.

Q. How easy or difficult is it to call villagers for lessons?

Actually grouping of people is prohibited at this time.

They are very cooperative and after applying for permits they spare their few minutes to listen to us.

I am working with the school head and the village nurse to disseminate information.

Q. What challenges did you face carrying out your humanitarian work?

Well it is always a challenge when you deal with an invisible enemy, but the challenges will always be dormant when you have supportive colleagues and community leaders!

The issue of masks is a challenge now that it’s compulsory to wear them – any donations are welcome!

Q. What inspired your contact-free hand washing facilities?

Freehand washing facilities aka tip-tab, well I saw some being made on social media but I felt they were not user friendly.

So I had to use my artistic abilities to modify and do what I thought was best.

Q. What kind of support did you receive from the village leadership?

The support is always super-efficient from all the structures of the village: the chief, Kgosi Mosalagae Galebonwe, the Village Development Committee, Parents Teachers Association, School Head Florah Masalila, colleagues and indeed the whole village community.

Actually some of the tools and materials were sourced from individual community members.

A real team effort!

Q. I understand you are originally from Mathathane village in the Bobirwa Sub District, one might have assumed you would have done this humanitarian work there – why did you choose Jamataka?

Yes, Mathathane is my home village but so is Jamataka because I spend most of my time here.

When Covid was declared a pandemic I was here, so I had to remain where I was.

I felt it would be risky for me to travel home when lockdown was announced.

Q. When did you settle in Jamataka and what kind of relationship do you have with the villagers?

I have been here for ten years.

The reception has always been good and people here are easy to relate with and welcoming.

This is like my second home which is why it is easy to share the health tips with them.

Q. Have you done any humanitarian activities before?

Yes, ever since my arrival here in the village outside my work.

In 2013 I met with some residents and formed an organisation in the village, which we called ‘Brothers and Sisters of Peace’.

We have football and netball teams.

The objective of our organisation was to give back to the community.

We supported some pupils from primary and junior schools with toiletry and uniform.

We also support and contribute to the schools prize giving events, refurbish houses damaged by storms, donate food hampers, toiletries and school uniform.

We have adopted a family in Mathathane, helping them with their necessities and connecting water to VDC houses, which is an ongoing project.

That is the little we are doing.

Q. What are your future plans with this gesture or was it only for the Covid-19 pandemic?

Well that’s a tough one; you never know what the future holds.

But what I can promise is to keep doing what God sent us to do on earth.

We are all assigned different tasks and it seems mine is to give back and make a difference in the community I live in.

Q. What advice can you give to other young people about volunteerism?

I just want to say blessed is the hand that gives.

We all need one another; we complement one another, whether rich or poor you will never know who is going to reward you!

Q. Who is your inspiration?

I would say my late mother Ngwakwana Maggie Seshoka has always been my greatest inspiration.

She was wheelchair-bound but she would do any house chores and she raised us well to be responsible citizens.

May Her Soul Rest in Peace.

She sounds like a remarkable woman!

Q. And finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

My plan for the weekend: stay indoors, open my stereo and sanitize every ear listening!

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