I recently returned from another successful visit to Burundi. It is much calmer in Burundi now and I felt safe throughout my visit. The visit was productive and enjoyable.
I was able to meet with Bishop Déogratias NSHIMIYIMANA and Executive Secretary Evariste BIMENYIMANA of the Free Methodist Church of Burundi and Rector Sylvain NZOHABONAYO of Hope Africa University. I met with a number of our project managers and made onsite visits to five of our development projects. My visit included a great visit with the Vibberts at Mweya.
My visit was timed to overlap with a visit by Rev. Mark Van Valin who is the Senior Pastor at Spring Arbor, Michigan Free Methodist Church and a member of the North American Governing Committee for the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund. Pastor Mark was in Burundi to participate in a four-location training program for all of the pastors of the Free Methodist Church of Burundi.
Pastor Mark has visited Burundi before but he had never had the opportunity to visit any of our development projects. Working with Executive Secretary Evariste, some time was found within the very busy training schedule for Pastor Mark to visit two of our development projects.
First Onsite Visit
- Breeding Goats at Nyambuye Zone in Isale Commune, Project Manager: Desire CIZA
This project was designed to improve the socioeconomic conditions of community-selected beneficiaries in a rural area just outside Bujumbura. The beneficiaries were to be organized into an association of committed members. The project planned to provide female goats to each association member; a female representative of a needy household. For the first two gestations, one of the kids would be distributed to other beneficiaries. In addition, the association members would be trained and assisted to compost and grow crops. The proceeds from the goats and the crops were expected to sustain the project and improve the quality of life for the represented households.
Thanks to the fine work of Desire CIZA, project manager, the implementation of the project has gone very, very well. There is a first association of 15 committed needy women. The association elected officers and the members pay monthly dues. The association members have at least one goat and they have planted, harvested and sold a number of crops.
The first association provided some goats to a second group that began as 60 women. Goats have been distributed to 15 women, all of the women have been involved in growing crops and three stores have been started in a new local market. The stores are selling fish, beans and rice and vegetables respectively. The large group has now formed into two associations of 30 members each. From the initial start-up grant, the first association is well-established and has started two additional associations; yes, a total of 75 beneficiaries from a small start-up grant.
Following the introduction of Pastor Mark and Executive Secretary Evariste, the presidents of the associations provided a description of their activities.
Thanks to a few private donations from some generous Canadians, I was able to provide each of the three associations with a small gift to support and accelerate further development as decided by all of the association members themselves.
Second Onsite Visit
- Making Bricks in Mugaruro Quarter, Buterere Commune, Project Manager, Audace MPAWENIMANA
This development project has recently renewed its membership and development activities. Based on the needs and recommendations identified in his master’s of business administration thesis, the project manager, Audace MPAWENIMANA, designed a project to develop the capacity and improve the socioeconomic lives of brick makers. The project was expected to provide training and financial assistance to beneficiaries who made bricks and were committed members of an association. The training focused on improving brick making and management skills. The financial assistance consisted of providing support for other income-generating activities. Some of the income would be reinvested back into the association to ensure that the project sustains itself and grows.
The project was designed to help vulnerable people to become more economic independent by making bricks and pursuing agriculture activities, especially in rice growing. During the period of political unrest in Bujumbura, the project lost a number of beneficiaries. Thanks to the fine work of Audace MPAWENIMANA, project manager, the membership of the association and development activities have been renewed.
This project is our only one with Batwa members. The project now has 17 beneficiaries; 16 members are Batwa (members of the Twa ethnicity, sometimes called pygmies), 13 are women and 4 are men.
The project has made another batch of bricks which will be fired and then sold.
The project has recently harvested a small crop of rice which is ready to be sold.
During the visit to the project, an association member provided a description of the project and its activities.
Another member described that benefits she has received by being an active member of the project.
A few Canadian supporters have given me private donations to provide to deserving projects. To assist in renewing the development activities of the bricks and rice project, I gave the President a small gift with the view that all of the association members will discuss and decide how to use the money for further development.