BULLETIN: U.S. Ambassador Visits Two of Our Development Projects, Part 1

We are thrilled to report that the U.S. Ambassador to Burundi, Anne Casper, visited two of our development projects that began with start-up grants from the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund.

The visit was wonderful! The current U.S. Ambassador is truly a 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.

U.S. Ambassador to Burundi, Anne Casper

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 wanted to engage 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.

She is not a typical Ambassador, she is a special Ambassador who made the field visit into a wonderful onsite visit. The field visit was to two of our development projects.

  1. Making Bricks and Growing Rice in Mugaruro Quarter, Buterere Commune, Project Manager, Audace MPAWENIMANA
  2. Women Shopkeepers in Buterere Zone, Bujumbura Mairie Province: Project Manager, Audace MPAWENIMANA

This Bulletin is the Part 1 report and describes the visit to the bricks and rice project (a Part 2 report on the visit to the shopkeepers project will follow soon).

The Project Description

The long-term, volunteer Project Manager for this development project is Audace MPAWENIMANA. Based on the needs and recommendations he identified in his Master’s of Business Administration thesis, Audace designed a project to develop the capacity and improve the socioeconomic lives of brick makers (2014).

Audace MPAWENIMANA, Project Manager

The project was designed to help vulnerable people to become more economically independent by making and selling bricks and cultivating and selling rice. During the period of political unrest in Bujumbura, the project lost a number of beneficiaries. Thanks to the work of Audace and the beneficiaries, this development project renewed its membership and its development activities.

This is our only Batwa project. The project has 18 beneficiaries that are organized in their own self-managing, self-governing association; 17 members are Batwa (members of the Twa ethnicity, sometimes called pygmies), 14 are women and 4 are men. The project is productive and self-supporting in making and selling bricks and planting, harvesting, sharing and selling rice. The income from selling bricks and rice provides income for the association and money for the members.

The Wonderful 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 Project Manager, Audace MPAWENIMANA, Voice of Hope Radio, Kirsten NZUNGU, Photographer, Jean Paul SHAKA and the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund, John McCready.

Getting Started: Kirsten, John and Ambassador Anne Casper

The visit began with introductions and an overview of the project; a brief description of the association, the brick making and the rice cultivation.

Association President and Project Manager Provide a Project Overview for the Ambassador and Leif Davenport

Following the project overview, we moved to where the beneficiaries were singing and making clay bricks. Brick making was explained and demonstrated; the clay is worked into molds, the forms that make two bricks and then they are set aside for drying.

Brick Makers at Work: Audace Describes Brick Making Process to Ambassador (active kiln in background)
Association President and Ambassador Continue to Closely Observe Bricking Making

Suddenly, the Ambassador requested a chance to make a couple of bricks. Of course the beneficiaries were delighted to have the Ambassador join them.

Jumping into Brick Making
Hands-on, Loading the Form
Happily Sharing the Experience
Getting Focussed
Finishing-up the Two Bricks
Ashley Takes a Turn
Now What?

Almost There

Once the bricks have been kilned, the bricks are sold and the money is shared between the association and the brick makers.

Audace Explains Drying and “Cooking” Bricks

At the time of the visit, it was not the season for cultivating rice. Accordingly, there was nothing to see in the rice field that was awaiting cultivation. However, the President of the association described that rice from the last harvest is saved for seed.

Association President Explains Rice Cultivation Process

The seed produces seedlings which are grouped into a nursery in the larger field. Then seedlings are planted into rows, fertilized, irrigated, weeded and cared for until harvest. The rice is harvested and dried, husked and the rice is packed into bags and sold when a good price can be obtained.

The President Graciously Invites the Guests into Her House
A Bag Rice Stored for Seed
Two Beneficiaries Provide Testimonials

The two Batwa women testified that before they joined the association they were living in very bad conditions. They were begging in different parts of Bujumbura. Like other members of the association, they were living by picking-up food waste that was placed at the garbage dump.

Audace Translating Testimonies

The women explained that when Audace came and helped them work together, they stopped begging and stopped picking-up food at the garbage dump. Now that they are mobilized and working, their lives are much better, they get food, clothes and some school materials for their children. They hope that someday, somehow they will own their own rice field and they will have more money for school materials and healthcare.

Receiving Embassy Gifts for Distribution to Beneficiaries
Beneficiaries and Guests
Saying Good-bye to Beneficiaries
Saying Good-bye and Thank You to the President