Archives For Burundi

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by Lauren Sheard, HOPE Burundi Program Manager

Two years ago, soon after I first moved to Burundi, I was chatting with another expatriate I’d just met. Explaining what I do, I described the basic premise of HOPE International’s savings group ministry, how rather than giving out money or goods directly like a traditional charity we’re teaching people how to save their own money to make a difference in their families and communities. I was pleased with my elevator speech but was caught off guard when the expatriate and his Burundian friend laughed! “This is Burundi,” they said. “That sort of thing can’t possibly make a difference. People don’t have anything, and you’re trying to teach them to save? Maybe in a few decades when the country is better off.” And at that, the conversation ended with another laugh and a sarcastic “good luck!”

I am not one to be offended easily, but in that moment I felt rather indignant. Not only is it rude to laugh at what I just said I do and believe in, but to so easily brush off even the thought that Burundians could have skills and abilities to help themselves was discouraging to me.

Over the last two years, I’ve heard many times: “How can people save when they barely have enough to survive from day to day?” My answer to that question is generally, “That’s exactly WHY they need to save.” If my family is focused simply on today, spending whatever we have whether it’s more or less than usual, we will need to do the same tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.IMG_3529

But if today I have just $1 more than what I need, I could save it. Then another day I have an extra $2. So when the day comes that tragedy strikes and my market stand burns down, I have something to fall back on. When my five children go back to school at the same time, I have money saved for school fees. When the dry season comes and my crops don’t grow, I have something with which to feed my family. When my neighbor struggles with an illness, I can help pay his medical fees.

Furthermore, if I combine my efforts and small amounts of money with others in my community, together we can achieve greater things. I could choose to spend my extra $1 this week on some milk to drink, or I could get 14 of my friends to also contribute $1 and, together, we could buy a goat for $15 that rotates between us and provides milk every day. Or we could each bring $1 a week and take turns receiving the full $15 to start small businesses.

This is the heart behind HOPE’s savings group model—to maximize the efforts and resources of the individual and the collective group in such a way that empowers  them, provides for their family, encourages love and community, and draws them closer to Christ as they discover He cares about every part of their life.

Everything we do at HOPE starts with seeing people as God sees them—full of dreams, talent, and potential. Each Burundian was created with abilities and passions unique to them. When we see people as God sees them and empower them to use what He has already put in their hands, we see true transformation.

IMG_7118Lauren Sheard has worked for HOPE International since 2013, first as programs assistant in Lancaster, PA, before transitioning to her current role as HOPE Burundi technical advisor. When she’s not doing HOPE work, she enjoys spending time with her international group of friends, playing on her church worship team, and exploring the East Africa region.

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When civil war broke out in Burundi in 1993, Edith Uwineza and her family sold their belongings and fled to Tanzania as refugees. It wasn’t until two years later that they were able to return to Burundi and begin life anew. Edith’s husband worked as the supervisor of a construction site and owner of a cement shop, and Edith managed a small roadside stand where she sold green peppers and tomatoes.

Despite her hard work and diligence, Edith found it difficult to earn a sufficient income and lacked the resources to expand her business. After learning about to Turame, HOPE’s local partner, Edith received a $30 loan that enabled her to sell a wider variety of vegetables at her stand. She has since taken out 14 loans, which she has used to diversify her inventory to include non-perishable items and charcoal for cooking. As Edith’s business grew, she began renting out her small kiosk to other vendors and moved to a local market where she could serve more customers.

Recognizing that she will eventually be unable to be as involved with her business as she grows older, Edith is using her sharp mind for business to plan for the future. She wants to purchase land and build a house to rent out, as well as continue her business through hired employees.

Today, Edith is a well-respected member of her community who takes care of five children, her sister, and her orphaned niece. She provides jobs for three families and frequently assists her neighbors in times of need. Edith testifies that through her involvement with Turame she has gained a family. “If I were to praise Turame, I would need to write a book,” she reflects. Seeing that God is the ultimate source of provision, Edith named her business Shimwa Yesu, which means, “Jesus be praised.”

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by Lauren Sheard, HOPE Burundi Program Manager

Last month, a new report hit the proverbial newsstands, ranking the countries of the world in order of happiness. My native United States ranked 13th, but my new adoptive home of Burundi came in dead last. Or, for the glass-half-full people, first in sadness.

How could Burundi be the saddest country in the world? Even lower than war-torn Syria? I have only lived here a couple of years, but my image of Burundi is not one particularly marked by downcast faces or depression. Continue Reading…

Pastor Zenon

Believing that Christians are called not only to proclaim, but also to demonstrate the Gospel, Pastor Zenon Ndayegamiye felt burdened to implement holistic development both in his church and community in Burundi.

“We cannot separate the spiritual and physical or social development. It is like the two wings of a bird, if you cut off one wing, you cannot fly,” he explains.

Serving as a pastor in the Foursquare Church in Burundi, Zenon began to teach holistic development in 2010 among local church congregations. “In my church, I was struggling because I wanted to see the context of poverty changed,” remembers Zenon. After being introduced to the HOPE Burundi savings and credit association (SCA) program, he immediately felt that this program could provide an answer. Zenon shares, “Many organizations brought money to help Burundians, but until now, we don’t see the impact. For me, I can truly say HOPE Burundi is very different from other organizations. Some have said it’s like, instead of giving fish to someone, you have to teach him to fish.Continue Reading…

Burundi prayer

by Jean de Dieu Bizimana, Country Director, HOPE Burundi

On May 13, while I was in Lancaster, PA, for HOPE’s annual Leadership Summit, we received news of an attempted coup in Burundi. Though the coup failed, it was further evidence of the growing crisis in our country, where unrest and violence have become part of life in Bujumbura, the capital city, since late April, when our president announced he was running for a third term.

As the turmoil has dragged on, businesses and schools have closed, disrupting normal operations in our already fragile economy. Some HOPE Burundi staff members have gone to Rwanda for safety, part of the over 100,000 people who’ve fled the country.

In this atmosphere of uncertainty, I praise God that He is our constant, true source of hope. We say with the psalmist, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:2).

I invite you to join me in praying for the people of Burundi, especially HOPE staff, church partners, and clients:

  1. Pray for peace. Pray that God moves in the hearts of the nation’s leaders to act in the best interests of the people of Burundi. Pray that peace prevails and that we find a resolution to this conflict that truly helps our country move forward.
  2. Pray for clients. With thousands leaving the country and many businesses closed, our clients—who rely on their businesses to support their families—are facing severe disruptions to their livelihoods.
  3. Pray for staff. Pray that God protects them as they travel to support and encourage volunteers and savings group members.
  4. Praise God for the solidarity of savings groups. In rural areas, savings groups have continued to meet, finding a source of solidarity and fellowship amid uncertainty and fear. Pray that they continue to find hope in times of prayer and worship.

 

Jean de Dieu Bizimana

Jean de Dieu has led HOPE Burundi’s savings and credit association (SCA) program since it started in 2012. Prior to assuming his current role, Jean de Dieu was actively involved in HOPE’s network as a board member of Turame Community Finance, HOPE’s partner in Burundi. He and his wife are blessed with three children.

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Burundi has changed. And perhaps I’ve changed, now seeing this country and its people through different, older eyes. But perceptions aside, the people of Burundi now approach uncharted territory, collectively gathering their breath for a series of tests to the country’s democracy. And as the powers that be move and countermove in these weeks prior to national elections, I’m reminded of the proverb: When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.

From the air, Burundi is an undulating patchwork of greens and browns—that much hasn’t changed. On the ground, the changes are a bit more evident—and it feels different from six years ago. The capital city, Bujumbura, is still its tropical, charming self, but with even more cars, moto-taxis, bicycles, and people navigating the clogged, albeit newly paved, roads. Signs of increased commerce are everywhere, with more air conditioned restaurants and swanky cafes—not to mention internet speeds that no longer rob users of their youth and sanity. These mostly urban developments impact only a small percent of Burundians, but something deeper is taking place throughout the country.

When I lived in Burundi from 2008 – 2009, I spoke with many families just returning from refugee camps and other camps for internally displaced peoples. They were starting their lives again after Burundi’s long civil war, and while many expressed hope for the future despite their present reality, others feared for their survival without employment or land to cultivate. Today, traveling outside of Bujumbura with my HOPE Burundi coworkers, I’ve met some of the people—church partners, pastors, field coordinators, and participating groups and individuals—that are part of HOPE’s savings and credit association program. And I’m hearing a different, more hopeful narrative.

Continue Reading…