My recent visit to Burundi involved a variety of development related activities. The purpose of this newsletter is to describe some of the activities I pursued during my recent six-week visit to Burundi.
Visiting Development Projects
Since 2011, the Student Grants Program of the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund has provided grants to 13 development projects. As with other visits to Burundi, I try to make onsite visits, field visits to the development projects. Most of our development projects are outside of Bujumbura, the capital city. Some of the projects are difficult to reach. Normally, I travel to the projects at my personal expense and travel by motorcycle or hire and pay for a driver and a four-wheel drive vehicle (what the Burundians call a “strong car”).
Through the kindness and generosity of Ken Johnson, I had the use of my own vehicle for most of the time. Having the convenience, independence and economy of my own transportation makes my work much easier and much more efficient. Ken Johnson stores and services my motorcycle but he cannot stop the rain. Although some Burundians carry more than one passenger on a motorcycle, I am unwilling to do so.
For this visit, I had the use of the “Blue Jeep” which is a 1981 Toyota Land Cruiser. Thank you very much Ken! In graciously giving me permission to use the Blue Jeep, Ken warned me by saying, “You know, it’s an old jalopy.” It is an old jalopy but it willingly goes anywhere at any time. In addition, the old jalopy is a vintage vehicle that draws a lot of attention from some the men in Bujumbura. It is an old, vintage jalopy but when you are driving this thing, you get where you are going and you look and feel just like you’re in Africa.
Three of the projects I visited require a motorcycle or a strong car to get near the project location; parts of the “roads” are very difficult to negotiate. If you go in a normal car, you would need to walk in or risk damaging the car. With the help of our intrepid Blue Jeep, I was able to visit these projects easily.
Considering Governing Committee Membership
As the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund has a North American Governing Committee for raising and distributing funds, we also have an African Governing Committee to select and monitor the development projects. In past few years, the membership of the African Governing Committee has been Bishop Déogratias NSHIMIYIMANA, Madam Jacqueline MUREKANSENGE and Dr. John McCready.
Madam Jacqueline has been the Head of the Social Work and Community Development Department at Hope Africa University but she is unavailable to the African Governing Committee right now because she is on leave while she is involved in a Ph.D. program in Austria. Now, Madam Susan MUCHIRI is Head of Social Work and Community Development. Accordingly, we asked Madam Susan to serve on the African Governing Committee for a three-year term.
In December, we distributed the announcement of the annual Call for Proposals for the Student Grants Program of the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund. Any student or graduate of Hope Africa University can submit a grant application; a proposal for a development project of their own choosing. The deadline for submitting proposals in response to the Call for Proposals 2017 was set for January 20, 2017. We received 15 proposals. Accordingly, I needed to coordinate the review and selection of proposed projects with the African Governing Committee. Bishop Déo, Madam Susan and I were involved in the review and selection of the proposed projects. Based on the review, the African Governing Committee selected three proposals for further consideration, meaning we are seeking additional information before deciding to provide a grant.
Facilitating Project Managers’ Meeting
While visiting Burundi, I organized a Project Managers’ meeting which was attended by eight Project Managers. The purpose of the meeting was to determine what the Project Managers think they need to support and enhance their work as project managers.
I asked each of the attending Project Managers to make their suggestions. The list below is the summary of the suggestions that were offered.
- Develop and implement a Project Managers’ Project; a new development project with shared, collaborative involvement
- Develop a Project Managers’ Network to share and exchange information, experiences and advice
- Develop a Priority Focus on helping inactive projects become active
- Develop and provide Training for Project Managers, project management training (2 to 3 days)
- Develop opportunities for Project Managers to visit other Project Manager’s projects
Together we will work on the suggestions.
Facilitating Development Workshop
A few years ago I met Fabien BIMENYIMANA, a student studying in nursing and a leader in Student Government. Fabien and 81 other students and graduates have formed a new association called Action pour la Paix et le Développment Communautaire (APADECO) or Action for Peace and Community Development. As a new organization, they wanted to organize and sponsor an all-day workshop to assist their members in getting started on meeting their mission to be actively involved in development activities in all provinces in Burundi. I was flattered when the Executive Committee members invited me to be their main speaker and facilitator.
The workshop, entitled Development of Capacity in Burundi and attended by 27 association members, was held on Saturday, February 11th in the Music Room at Hope Africa University.
The workshop consisted of presentations and small group discussion sessions. The focus was on capacity development of the indigenous people, emphasizing self-determination, self-support, self-sustainment and self-governance.
I presented the story of developing the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund and its operating principles. I was joined by Desire CIZA who presented the story of his very successful goats and crops development project that started with a development grant from the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund and the story of his successful nursery school development project that was started by Desire and a few unemployed young people, using only their own resources.
The presentations were followed by a number of small discussion groups.
Some time ago at the request of the Rector, the late Bishop Elie BUCONYORI, I designed and started teaching a course at Hope Africa University. The course, Community Needs Assessment, has become a required course within the recently approved Community Development Masters Program; a 5 credit, 50-hour course. As a Visiting Professor, I once again taught my course during the short January and February term. Since I use a participatory, interactive approach, I prefer small classes and this time I had nine graduate students.
Hope Africa University had a graduation in December and there were 839 graduates. There was another graduation in February with 463 graduates. Measuring the impact of a university obviously includes the number of graduates and Hope Africa University has produced thousands graduates.
Since I was present in February, I was invited by the Rector to attend and participate in the graduation ceremonies as a Visiting Professor.
Graduations are exciting events because students are graduating and celebrating their educational success. The graduations are colorful and attended by guests of honor, faculty members, staff members, families and friends. I particularly enjoy the Burundian Drummers who always put on a great show. Notice their bare feet and remember that what goes up, must eventually come down on the very hard, stony ground; the central driveway and parking lot.