Archives For Burundi

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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.

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Francoise

Join HOPE in celebrating the clients featured in this year’s gift catalog, men and women using the gifts God has placed in their hands—talents, dreams, and hard work—to provide for their families and give back to their communities.

Full of entrepreneurial spirit, Francoise and her husband of 11 years, Etienne, know the joy of giving back. Francoise owns a thriving business in Burundi, where she and her four employees create colorfully patterned clothes. “I know how to sew everything,” she exclaims, “but my favorite things to sew are dresses.”

Etienne, also in the textile business, runs a shop in the busy Kamenge Market that sells fabric, thread, and other sewing supplies to the community. Together, they’re raising their five children, aged 2-9, as well as helping care for Francoise’s younger siblings. Six years ago, the couple adopted a sixth child whose parents were unable to care for her.

But even so, Francoise and Etienne didn’t have a safe place to save their money, leaving them few options in the face of unexpected expenses. When Francoise first heard about savings groups in November 2012, she was immediately intrigued by their focus on helping people improve their own lives. She joined the savings group Rukundo, meaning love, and began saving between $1.50 and $3 a month.

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Janviere Kamana beams as she stands among waist-high sacks of cassava flour under the strong midday sun. Young men lift heavy sacks of the staple food into the bed of a truck bound for a distant boarding school. Nearby, chalk-white cassava dries in the sun, nearly ready to be ground into flour and sold to customers around Burundi. This is Janviere’s business—buying dried cassava and grinding it into flour for sale—and it’s thriving.

It took several years of perseverance and hard work to achieve this success. Janviere began her business in 2009 with just $30, buying 220 pounds of cassava to grind and sell. She made just enough to get by, but after rent was paid and immediate needs met, Janviere struggled to save any meaningful sum of money. Her business stalled, and she couldn’t afford to pay school fees for her children.

Provision & grief

Janviere’s husband died in 2000 during Burundi’s civil war—a brutal, 12-year conflict that killed hundreds of thousands of people. Her family’s sole provider, Janviere raised six children, often borrowing money from friends to make ends meet. In 2011, two years after starting her cassava flour business, Janviere’s eldest daughter, Mary, died in a car accident. Mary’s young children—Anita, Eli, and Helen—came to live with Janviere, stretching limited resources even further. Continue Reading…

HOPE’s newest savings and credit association (SCA) groups in central Burundi are only a few months into their first cycle, and already group members are pooling their savings to start businesses and buy land together. Ryan Severns, HOPE’s microenterprise technical advisor in Burundi, gives us a video update from Karuzi Province, where our partnership with a local denomination is seeing fruit.

Muti

Muti accessed her first loan of $49 from Turame, HOPE’s partner in Burundi, three years ago. Since then, she has taken 11 loans to help grow her business cultivating tomatoes and selling bananas, tomatoes, and goats. She is currently repaying a $105 loan. When her business began, she did not have the funds to raise goats, but now she can feed and fatten them before reselling the goats for a profit. Although her husband passed away, Muti has been able to provide for her three children and three grandchildren. “Turame has helped my family fight poverty,” she says.

Mathieu

“Turame both gave me access to a loan and helps me run my business,” Mathieu Karenzo says of HOPE’s partner in Burundi. Mathieu cultivates and sells beans, potatoes, cabbage, cassava, and rice from his home and from Gitega’s central market. He has just received his first loan from Turame for $81, but he has high hopes for where he can go. He wants to send two of his sons to vocational training, and he would like to save enough money to buy land and build a home for himself, his wife, and his six children. Only a few months after receiving his first loan, Mathieu says he can already contribute more to his church’s offerings and help those in need at his church.