Although her trip is more than a month away, Laurentian
University student France LabontÃ© can't wait to go to Botswana
to participate in a six-week workshop on HIV/AIDS.
"Oh my God," she exclaims. "I'm getting more and more
LabontÃ©, 24, is one of 20 Canadian students chosen to
participate in the  workshop in the south African country
where an estimated 33 percent of the population is infected
with HIV/AIDS, the second highest concentration in Africa, next
It's personal, says LabontÃ© of her reasons for wanting to
"If everyone gives a little hand, we're going to make a
difference. I'm hoping everyone thinks like I do, and we could
all do our little share and reduce the poverty in the world."
LabontÃ© is in her third year of study at Laurentian, taking
a double concentration in French and geography. She wants to be
A member of Laurentian's World University Service of Canada
(WUSC) committee, LabontÃ© was chosen from more than 100
applicants on the basis of academic excellence, community
leadership and a demonstrated commitment to international
The WUSC committee gets involved in activities around campus
to raise money for developing countries. When she heard about
the HIV/AIDS workshop and the opportunity to go to Botswana,
she knew she had to get involved.
The New Liskeard native explains, "I really want to go
because I see stuff on television about poor countries and I
feel for them. But I think that if I actually go there, I'll
realize how severe it is so I might get more involved and want
to contribute more of my time to other organizations and just
keep on going."
Stephanie Levine, a WUSC program officer in Ottawa, says the
trip is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students like
LabontÃ©. She'll be paired off with a student from the
University of Botswana and will take part in youth outreach and
youth group activities with groups already working in the area.
LabontÃ© will also take part in tours of poor communities in
Botswana and will help establish an outdoor gym and sporting
facility for the region's youth.
Levine says one of the goals of the trip is to educate young
people about HIV/AIDS in an constructive, informal environment.
Another goal is for participants to perform research while
in Botswana, producing a case study from their research.
"The research is to contribute to the work of different
partner organizations with whom they would be placed," says
LabontÃ© says she is ready and able to lend a hand. "Whatever
they need help doing, we're going to offer our time and help
Although the trip to Botswana isn't related to her field of study, LabontÃ© says a career in teaching would be ideal for her because it'll leave her summer months free to do other charitable work.