As the vice chair of the Writers Association of Botswana (WABO) I've been sitting on the Reading Association of Botswana (RAB)'s organising committee for the upcoming 7th Pan-African Reading Conference to take place from the 11-14th July this year at the University of Botswana. One task I was given was to organise a Read-a-Thon for students in Botswana to get them involved in the conference and to get them reading.
At the Cape Town Book Fair I listened to a woman speak about a reading contest in Ghana where the final prize was a trip to Disney World. Imagine! So I thought at the very least I could get the safari operators and tour businesses up north in the Okavango Delta to sponsor a trip for our winners.
If you don't know, Botswana has a low capacity tourism policy, this means that exclusive, high priced resorts are built so that fewer people can visit the Okavango Delta. What this means for citizens is the vast majority of them will never be able to afford to see the premier tourist attraction in their own country. A sad but true reality. So a trip like this for the most prolific readers would have been incredible.
At the end of last year I sent out emails to about 25 tourism companies including the biggest- Wilderness Safaris. I did follow-up calls and follow-up emails and not a single one offered anything. Not a room, not a flight in, not a tour. Just goes to show what they think about the country from which they earn their very hefty livelihood and the residents that live here. Was I angry about this? Damn right. Am I still? Same answer.
I was so discouraged by this, in fact, it took me quite some time to get my head back in the game afterwards. I decided fine; I would stick to the people I know, the people I understand.
I approached booksellers and newspapers. Businesses barely holding onto their ever dwindling profit margin but yet they stepped right up to the plate without hesitation.
The Voice Newspaper offered the advertising space to put the entry form for four insertions. Modjaji Books (South Africa), Pentagon Publishers and Botswana Book Project donated books. And there are still other publishers I'm sure are going to donate as well. Five Stars and a standing ovation for these companies that really care about the future of our kids!!
Instead of a trip to the Delta, the kids will get books and cash and a trip to Gaborone to receive their prizes at the Conference where 700 international delegates will be there to witness.
700 delegates that might have wanted to visit the Okavango Delta with a tour company that cared about reading, books, and the education of the children of this country. What a missed opportunity!