Little did I know at the time that a remote village in the southern Kgalagadi desert would end up changing the course and direction of my life. I was beginning Tirelo Sechaba (National Service) as a News broadcaster for five villages in the Borolong district of Botswana that year. I met a Peace Corps volunteer who was teaching at the community secondary school and we formed a strong connection. Three years later, at the end of his Peace Corps service, Nicholas Seferian and I married and we moved to Hawaii to further our education. Our plans were to return to Botswana to pursue careers in community development and education. We both studied at Hawaii Pacific University where I earned a Bachelor of Sciences degree in Business Administration, and Nick completed a Masters degree in teaching English as a second language. During our six-year stay in Hawaii, we were able to return twice to Botswana. On the first trip in 2000, we visited with family in Ramotswa and traveled to Mabule to visit friends and colleagues at the school where Nicholas had taught. What we discovered in both Ramotswa and Mabule completely changed the direction of our lives.
Ramotswa, my home village, once so full of life and children, was a much quieter place to be. Families had been decimated by AIDS. One family, which consisted of a grandmother, mother, father, and five children, now consisted of the elderly grandmother and the mother who was living with HIV. In Mabule, people who had been our good friends during our stay there, were dead. We visited new grave sites and read the dates on tombstones. We learned that most of the deceased were born in the 1980s. Very few were any older than 40. A friend of ours there, who had welcomed Nick and introduced me to the village people and families, had passed, a victim of AIDS. Although I was incredibly saddened at the loss of this good friend, the loss was heightened with the realization of the dire straits of the children he left behind without parents.
I had never experienced such shock and disbelief. I left Mabule feeling as though a part of me had been lost, and feeling utter despair with the knowledge that my friend’s children would be left in poverty without a father and a scant extended family. I returned to Hawaii knowing that I had to do something to help our community. I found it impossible to stop thinking about the HIV/AIDS situation in Botswana. The situation seemed so monstrous and so far advanced, that I felt I had to focus on only one fragment of the issue. I decided that the best way I could fight what was happening was to begin helping one village at a time. I felt that, although I could not save Botswana or Africa from HIV/AIDS, I could make sure that one part of the country, one village, would be a force in dealing with the effects of the disease.
This is how the plan to create SOCOBA, The Society for Children Orphaned By AIDS, had its genesis and became my focus. The children are the most innocent and vulnerable casualties of the AIDS epidemic that is engulfing Botswana. Together with my graduate school coursework and with Nick’s teaching abilities and development experience, we both hope to provide the people of Mabule with the knowledge and resources they will need to ensure that they do not suffer the same fate as so many of their kin.
SOCOBA has two offices in the United States, in Burbank, California, and Washington, DC, and one in the village of Mabule, which is in the region of Borolong. All of the offices are home-based, which we think is a perfect symbol of what we are about, ensuring everyone has a place and people to call home. We are an all volunteer organization, and hope you will consider becoming part of our story.
— Sego Seferian
SOCOBA’s leadership team consists of passionate and dedicated professionals that are responsible for providing leadership and direction to all aspects of SOCOBA’s operations both at home and abroad. Our team is made up of our Founder/President, Treasurer, Human Resources Director and Program Manager.
Sego Seferian – Founder/President
Anthony Seferian – Attorney/Treasurer
Remy Jones – Human Resources Director
Nicholas Seferian – Co-Founder/Project Manager
SOCOBA’s support team is essential to the on-going operations and development tasks. Through their experience and talents, they provide the necessary technical and creative support required to see vital tasks, programs, and details through. Current support team specialists are:
Brandon Lock-IT Specialist
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Board of Directors-USA
SOCOBA’s Board of Directors manages the work of SOCOBA. Our Board shapes and steers the direction of SOCOBA by informing others of our mission, adhering to our core values, and devising strategies and key policies that further our aim. The Board also ensures that the leadership, resources, and finances in place are in alignment with SOCOBA’s key project goals and objectives. This is done through regular monitoring and strategizing formally and informally. The Board meets quarterly each year, and will also meet as needed to discuss matters that may arise. Our current Board members are:
Sego Seferian – Founder/President
Nicholas Seferian – Educator @ Arlington Public Schools
Anna Necheles – Portfolio Manager for Field Operations Directorate @ Federal Emergency Management Agency
Mpho Chinyolo – Former Economic Advisor to the President of Malawi @Government of Malawi
Joe D’Emidio – Program Director @YMCA Arlington Woodmont Gymnastics Center
Brandon Lock – Senior Consultant @Cognosante
Harold Chapman – Director @ Cushman & Wakefield
Board of Directors-Botswana
SOCOBA’s sister organization, the Society for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (SOVUC), located in Mabule, Botswana, is essentially the home and heart of our efforts and works hand in hand with SOCOBA USA. SOVUC board of directors are primarily responsible for the organization and identification of our orphans and vulnerable children. In addition, SOVUC is responsible for receiving direction and guidance from the SOCOBA board and leadership team for all matters pertaining to building and construction, programming, and financial/beneficiary reporting. SOVUC Board members are:
Grace Koleke Tiro – Chairperson
Boitshoko Maphage – Vice Chairperson
Patrick Molose – Secretary
Kebonye Taukobong – Vice Secretary
Gladys Motonto-Nthwane – Treasurer
Dorcus Molale – Shopkeeper
Botsang Lerumo – Self-Help
Boitumelo Moepi – Self Help
Keitumetse Seumako – Marketing + Branding
Kgotlaile Moeng – Electricity/Labour
Helping Youth In Need Help Themselves