“My whole life, I had never had a job or done anything to get money to feed myself and my family. I would just go dig out in [a neighbor’s] field then get food for me and my family,” Serafina recalls. “For some reason, I thought that was enough, and I thought that’s how life was meant to be.”
Archives For hope
by Luke Harbaugh, HOPE Church Representative
It’s tempting to idealize a life of isolation. The fiction of total independence, full autonomy, and little to no social accountability can sound appealing. However, Genesis 2:18 reminds us “it is not good for a man to be alone,” and we also learn from Genesis that God created us to function as social creatures, living in relationship with Him and in community with others. When we embrace a life of isolation, we are denying a key piece of our design as humans, but when we embrace community, we come alive more fully.
I got to personally witness the healing power of community when I visited Ishaan and his sister Darsha in South Asia last year.* Ishaan used to live a pretty normal life—he was funny, kind, and well-liked by those who knew him. But one day he started to get sick—and this sickness went beyond physical symptoms. His personality seemed to change.
He stopped eating, and he would barely drink. There were also violent outbursts and anger. Where he once used kind words, there was now profanity and insults. He would cry out randomly, and he would snarl and flail wildly. Completely out of character, Ishaan also stopped working. Continue Reading…
by Haley Smith, Regional Representative
When I was young giving didn’t necessarily come naturally—but finding ways to make money did.
At the age of six, my first business was the classic lemonade stand. I made the lemonade, painted a traffic-stopping sign, and set up a table. As the minutes ticked by without a single cup sold, I started to get impatient. Unready to surrender my losses, I determinedly went door to door, and, to my surprise, I sold every last cup.
For me, this was a turning point. I had earned something on my own, and now it was up to me to decide what to do with it. Recognizing this new passion, my parents began to talk with me about managing my own money.
They wanted to know how would I use my newfound income? Did I want to save any of it? Did I want to give any of it away? I wanted to give—but I also really wanted the new Boyz II Men cassette tape. It was going to be a tough call. Continue Reading…
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. Continue Reading…
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…
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.