The magazine for Western Washington University
Stories

Botswana

An 'older,' wiser volunteer fulfills a dream

Print this story
Drawing together: Robert Ranger ('87, Fairhaven Interdisciplinary Concentration), right, was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Botswana, working on preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS. "It was a rule when you came to 'Robert's House,' you had to do a drawing and put it on the wall," he writes. "The interior of my house was covered with drawings by kids as well as adults. Adults liked to do drawings as much if not more than the kids. The boys were working on their drawings, but mostly we were chatting as they both spoke very good English. Drawing allowed them to relax and chat. Straight talking was/is difficult in this culture - at least honest straight talking. Drawing helped calm them and let the ' 'talking' flow easier. As well they could come to my house the next week and see their pictures on my wall." | Photo by courtesy of Robert Ranger
| Photo by

“I remember watching JFK talk about the Peace Corps on my family’s little black-and-white TV,” says Robert Ranger (’87, Fairhaven Interdisciplinary Concentration). “I knew it was something I wanted to do after hearing JFK speak.”

Ranger finally fulfilled that dream at the age of 61, when he spent two years in Botswana as a Peace Corps Volunteer working on HIV/AIDS prevention in 2007 to 2009.

“PC is heavily recruiting older folks like me these days,” he says. “When PC began they did many projects in countries that involved putting in schools or water lines or physical work around infrastructure. Today’s issues in these countries are much more complicated and, to my way of thinking, need and can use the skills of us older folks.”

Ranger found his professional experience as a mental-health counselor gave him an advantage.

“Helping change people’s dangerous behaviors is a complicated process,” he says. “It is clear to me my skill set crossed cultural differences and brought insight and change into their lives that maybe a younger person couldn't bring.”