Burundi Part I
Photos from the past several days in Burundi.
My batteries died of exhaustion with all the dance filming. Not sure how to post videos on the blog, so they’ll have to be shared after Thanksgiving. Traditionally, the drumming is only done by men. These ladies are taking it up as something they can do for supplemental income. They are very interested in a US tour! After they greeted us with drums, we sat down for a round table. They are very encouraged by our visit and interested in continued support. They hope to be able to expand their market which would allow them to buy more raw materials. Currently they make about 20kilos of soap in one batch and are hoping to grow to two batches per day. They earn about twenty five cents per kilo.
They are hoping to expand their market so they can earn more than $5 per day.
Heart breaking story alert!
George and Neslata have two darling children. Darling if you didn’t see them making snow globes from water bottles and cookies. Lori related it to something regurgitated. But, really, they were adorable children! Perhaps 7 and 5 years old. Deborah and Samuel. She’s missing two front teeth, but absolutely shines when she smiled in her little princess dress.
Samuel was the ham who was making the cookie snow globes. He was a charmer who really enjoyed dancing along with the drums. I see a future performer there!
Kelly told us about the first time they met Neslata and Georges. She had heard that Neslata was diagnosed as HIV+ and did not have high hopes of survival. When you can’t afford food, the thought of being able to afford regular medical care is completely foreign. The parents realized they would not be able to care for the children without a mom at home to care for them. African Road had a team visiting which seemed like the best solution- to give the children over. Give them a chance in America. Kelly had been informed of the plan as they arrived to a party. She tells of how the family was clinging to every moment. Anticipating it as the last time they would have together. Not wanting to have to abandon their children- not wanting them to be orphaned. Not seeing any alternative way.
Needless to say, that is not something the team was able to do. But one of the team members really bonded with Samuel (how could you not!). The man wanted to help, so they worked out the best solution possible. He now pays for all of her medical care and her children are at home with their mom! And they are a wonderful family!
The next day- yesterday- we visited two Batwa villages. One where they were treated much like American Indians. Dumped on the worst land available as their fertile forests were turned into reserves where they could no longer eek out a living as hunter-gatherers since it was illegal to kill protected species. Evarist is very involved and interested having been one of a handful of the 80 or 90,000 Batwa living in Burundi to have graduated from university. He now works in one of the three National Assembly positions reserved for Batwa. He said there are probably only ten kids in either village we stopped in who are in high school. So he’s a very special case. He was fortunate enough to have someone sponsor his education fees.
There were many children in Bubanza. Many young couples. Many women. The men must have been off working the fields. There are 1000 families living here. All of them with at least 4 children. Most parents appeared to be barely teenagers. Old age is considered 40 and at least a couple children are expected to pass away before reaching maturity.
Considering the lovely rock pile they live on, the only thing they grow is cassava. And it seems everyone is growing it. No diversity in their diets. There are some mud huts in the village- all of them built by private donors. All of them safe houses for goats (which means harbors for disease as well). If the children survive diarrhea, extreme conditions and malaria, there are two schools available for them to obtain an education. Not that they are interested in going when they are starving and can’t concentrate, but at least it’s available. Evarist told us children must start working at a very young age and rarely return to school.
We left them with smiles on their faces and hopefully a bit encouraged. Then we drove to a medical clinic for Batwa. To receive public health care, citizens are required to have identification cards which cost about 5,000francs. That’s alot of skipped meals if you’re living in Bubanza. So, of course, no one has identification cards (which also means they can’t legally be married which means any children born are not granted birth certificates meaning no ID cards and no insurance. Huge problem, solved by less than ten bucks per person). The clinic is between two Batwa villages, making it easily accessible (only an hour’s walk) to thousands of people.
It is also near the city dump.
Pictures are worth a thousand words. This is where you find work if you live in Buterere, the next village we visited. The people there had nice mud houses, but the 500 families living there all have to compete for work, have no land available and no schools for their children. Different situation, but not any better.
And all day I had the song “Hungry Eyes” stuck in my head. So after a long day of looking into many, many, many, many hungry eyes, of course we went to a feast.
That night, our leader Flo, invited us into his home for a home cooked, Burundian meal. He has an absolutely wonderful wife, perfectly matched to his generous soul. They have a beautiful son, a lovely home and serve scrumptious foods. These are the leaders African Road is coming here to support. People like Evarist and Flo who are working for the people we’d spent the day visiting. And then I came back to the fancy hotel and started thinking about that fasting fundraiser.
This was all typed up awhile ago, but my internet’s been slow. We spent yesterday visiting a rural village school. They are doing amazing work with the neediest of children and achieving great results. Top scores in the area. Sounds kind of familiar.
Part two will come later today, hopefully.