We are still thrilled that the U.S. Ambassador to Burundi, Anne Casper, visited two of our development projects that began with small start-up grants from the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund.
The visit was wonderful! The current U.S. Ambassador is a truly special Ambassador and the visit was wonderful because of the way the Ambassador interacts with people; the way she interacted with the beneficiaries of our development projects.
The Ambassador is curious, interested, attentive, active and involved. She knows basic Kirundi and she has special skills for interacting with people. She is informal, warm, friendly, sincere and charming and she engaged directly with the beneficiaries of the development projects. She literally embraced the women as equals as friends and she encouraged the beneficiaries to continue to work together at improving their lives and the lives of their families.
The field visit involved two of our development projects. The previous Bulletin, the Part 1 report, described the visit to the bricks and rice project.
- Making Bricks and Growing Rice in Mugaruro Quarter, Buterere Commune, Project Manager, Audace MPAWENIMANA (2014)
This second Bulletin, the Part 2 report, describes the visit to the shopkeepers/microfinancing project.
- Women Shopkeepers in Buterere Zone, Bujumbura Mairie Province: Project Manager, Audace MPAWENIMANA (2017)
The Project Description
This carefully thought-out development project was designed and is being guided by a capable, volunteer Project Manager, Audace MPAWENIMANA. Audace holds a Master’s of Business Administration degree from Hope Africa University. Of course, he has served very successfully as the volunteer, long term Project Manager for a previously funded development project; the brick making and rice cultivating project.
For this project, Audace recruited 10 illiterate poor women who did not complete primary school. Through a highly participatory process, the women have been enabled and empowered to improve their living conditions; improve the health, diet, shelter, clothing and education of the women and their families. Through literacy training, business training and investing training, the women were prepared, equipped and supported to become successful shopkeepers.
The women are organized into a self-supporting, self-sustaining, self-managing and self-governing development Association. Through microfinancing, internal to the project, each woman has been provided with a loan, enough capital to rent a stand (a shop), buy equipment and purchase vegetables and other items for resale through their small shops. The sale of merchandise produces enough money to continue with the purchasing and selling, supporting their families and supporting the Association. As extra, unplanned activities, the Association decided to become involved in sewing and selling decorated sheets and pillow cases and collectively cultivating and selling crops.
The original Association of 10 women attracted 15 additional women who wanted to join the project. An Association meeting was held with the potential new members and, after meeting, it was decided to welcome and accept the 15 new, additional members and now the 15 new members have become an extension project with their own Association.
Summary of Testimonials
The visit included testimonials from the women. The shopkeepers testified that their lives have been changed since the project began. Their lives have changed and now they want the lives of their neighbors to change. The microfinancing loans, internal to the project, allow that women to have small income-generating businesses. Now, the women have some money and they do not have to go without food as before. Now, nobody in the Association goes a day without eating.
One woman reported that she borrowed 100,000 francs and bought a pig for 50,000 francs. In seven months, she was able to sell the pig for 250,000 francs. Now, she has started to build a house with the extra money.
The women indicated that they would like to buy their own building for storing harvests and they would like to start cultivating rice.
The Encouraging Visit
The U.S. Embassy was represented by Ambassador Anne Casper, Food for Peace Officer, Leif Davenport and Public Affairs Officer, Ashley White.
The project was represented by the beneficiaries, the Association President, Marcelline NIYITANGA, the Project Manager, Audace MPAWENIMANA, Literacy Trainer, Pastor Lazare KAZIRUKANYO, Voice of Hope Radio, Kirsten NZUNGU, Photographer, Jean Paul SHAKA and the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund, John McCready.
When Ambassador Casper arrived at the project site, she was welcomed by Association President, Marcelline, Literacy Trainer, Pastor Lazare and Project Manager, Audace.
The Ambassador was invited inside to greet the beneficiaries who were singing a Kirundi song of welcome. The Ambassador went all around the room greeting each individual woman.
After all the women were greeted individually, the Ambassador stood with the singing women and she joined and enjoyed the closing part of the song.
The project beneficiaries were thanked for attending the visit and the U.S. Ambassador to Burundi, Anne Casper, was introduced to the beneficiaries.
The Project Manager, Audace, and the President of the Association, Marcelline, provided an overview of the Association and the four main functions of the development project: (1) Literacy Training; (2) Sheet Decorating; (3) Shopkeeping/Microfinancing; and, (4) Crop Cultivating. Following the brief description of the project, the Ambassador was asked to join the beneficiaries in parts of the room that focussed on one of the main functions of the development project. As the Ambassador visited each area, she listened and she watched but then she became involved!
Some of the original beneficiaries were illiterate. Some of the new beneficiaries are illiterate. Now, the members of the first class can read, write and count. This is our only project that has offered Literacy Training. The Ambassador seemed to be quite interested in the Literacy Training. She can speak and understand some Kirundi.
When the Ambassador wrote in Kirundi and when she spoke in Kirundi, the women were thrilled. At one point, the women clapped in appreciation of the Ambassador speaking directly to them in Kirundi.
The sheet decorating was not part of the original project plan but it has become an important, income-generating activity for all of the Association members. The women buy the cloth and the patterns. Often, they do the fine, colorful sewing by working together. Sometimes, they receive orders for certain patterns and colors. The decorated sheets and pillow cases sell easily for very good money.
The main development function for the project is providing loans to beneficiaries so that they can operate shops or other income-generating activities. The loans are drawn from the project’s own capital; the project operates and maintains its own microfinancing. Often the shopkeepers buy and resell vegetables, fruits and other foods. During the visit, we not able to go visit the shops because the shops and other sale activities are in various market areas and other locations.
After the project began, it was decided to cultivate crops collectively. The project has planted and harvested potatoes and sweet potatoes. A potato crop was planted in the field next to the church that is used for the Association activities. The project is considering cultivating rice.
As part of saying thank you and saying good bye, we had a photograph taken to mark the occasion.
Having said good bye and just as we were preparing to leave the building, the Association President, Marcelline, on behalf of all of the beneficiaries, thanked Ambassador Casper for visiting the project and presented her with a thank you gift.
As had been arranged in advance by Public Affairs Officer, Ashley White, Journalist, Kirsten NZUNGU, was provided with some time to interview the Ambassador on behalf of Voice of Hope Radio.
Just before we all left the project site, I had an opportunity to speak to the Ambassador and thank her for a very successful visit. As a thank you gift from me, I presented her with a copy of the book I edited, John Wesley Haley and Building the Indigenous Church: Reflections on Self-Determination in Twentieth Century Burundi. I explained that the Haley’s, my grandparents, were the first Free Methodist Church missionaries to Burundi and the fundamental principles described in the book for building the indigenous church (self-supporting, self-propagating and self-governing) have shaped the work of the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund. The Ambassador kindly suggested that a photograph be taken of me presenting her with the book.