In 2007, Ryan Williams started the Botswana Orphan Project. It is a non-profit, humanitarian and development initiative. The organization seeks to clothe, feed and nurture orphans. Williams grew up in Botswana and lived there until he went to college when he turned 19. During a college break, Williams took photos for orphans at a local church. The experience inspired him to start the Botswana Orphan Project
Botswana is a landlocked country in Africa with a population around 1.7 million. Though the country's economy continues to grow there is a high amount of HIV/AIDS victims in the country. In recent years child mortality has risen to 20 percent and in Botswana's population of nearly 2 million, roughly 200,000 are orphaned children.
Locals, international volunteers and local churches run the orphan centers. The centers give the orphans a chance to receive an education and a chance at a better life in the future.
The organization wants to let orphans know that life is worth living. So far volunteers for the project have built six orphan centers and hope to build more.
Many orphans live with relatives but are seen as a burden and not cared for as well as other children. Orphans have a higher risk of being abused. The main orphan center is located in Reneetswe and cares for 160 orphans a week. The center offers counseling services to help orphans cope with the loss of family members.
School-aged orphans attend the center five days a week to learn and interact with their peers and volunteer teachers who help them with homework. The older children help the younger ones and act as mentors.
In addition to the typical course material, the orphans also learn traditional songs and dances, cultural values and how to protect themselves from HIV.
The Botswana Orphan Project works with different organizations like Parsons Brinkerhoff, a global consulting firm, to build sustainable buildings. In 2009 they worked together on a roof tuss design and a research application to develop a sustainable source of energy for the project.