Newsletter: Review of Work with Hope Africa University

Perhaps the nicest thing that the late Rector and Bishop Elie Buconyori ever said to me was, “John, you are welcome at Hope Africa University at any time.”  I am delighted to report that the new bishop of the Free Methodist Church of Burundi, Bishop Onésphore Nzigo, recently invited me to visit Burundi once more.

Again, I am going to be visiting Burundi and Hope Africa University at my own expense.  I will be arriving in Bujumbura on Sunday evening, September 29th and departing on Sunday evening, October 13th.  Among other tasks, I will be making site visits to the eight development projects that have been funded by the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund.
I feel blessed to have been able to work in Burundi for the past few years.  My involvement with Hope Africa University (HAU) during the past six years has been related to HAU priorities as specified and supported by the former Rector, Bishop Elie Buconyori.  I have prepared this review because I would like all of you to know more about my involvements.

As most of you know, my grandparents, John Wesley Haley and Jennie (Hamilton) Haley, were the first Free Methodist Church (FMC) missionaries to Burundi (1935 to 1946).  John Wesley Haley was committed to building an indigenous church; one that would be self-supporting, self-propagating and self-governing.  My parents, Burton and Dorothy (Haley) McCready, were early FMC missionaries to Burundi (1939 to 1946, 1949 to 1956) and they too supported the indigenous development model.  I was born at Buhiga in 1946 and I lived in Burundi until 1956.

In North America, I gained a bachelor’s degree at Spring Arbor College and a master’s degree and a doctorate in social work at the University of Toronto.  My career has mostly involved community development and research, including working with the indigenous people of Canada.  I have come to realize that my work, like the work of my family, has largely involved working in capacity development and enabling individuals, communities and organizations in becoming more self-determining, self-supporting and self-governing.

In January of 2007 and with help from Bishop Gerald Bates, the current Interim Rector of HAU, I made a trip to Burundi to revisit the places where I had lived and gone to school and to explore the possibilities of becoming involved in development work in Burundi.  Before I left for Burundi, I asked Bishop Bates who I should contact in Burundi and he recommended one person; the Rector of HAU, Bishop Elie Buconyori. 

Bishop Buconyori met with me, spent quite a bit of time with me and helped me arrange to travel upcountry to visit the mission stations and acquire a meeting on development with the President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza.  President Nkurunziza encouraged me to become involved in the development of Burundi and Bishop Buconyori strongly suggested that I return to teach at HAU and consider developing a fund to support HAU student projects; a priority for HAU.  I considered this to be support from indigenous leaders. 

With support from the Vice-Rector, Dr. Simeon Nikobari, and the Head of the HAU Department of Social Work and Community Development, I developed a course entitled Community Needs Assessment for the Department of Social Work and Community Development.  Travelling to and from Burundi at my own expense six different times, I have taught the course three times at the undergraduate level (2010, 2011 and 2012) and once as a graduate course (2013).  The course is now embedded in the new HAU Social Work and Community Development masters program. 

With direct assistance and support from Bishop Elie Buconyori, Bishop Gerald Bates, Bishop Keith Elford and Bishop David Kendall and advice from Ms Marvelle Vannest, Rev. Dan Sheffield, Rev. Burton Hamilton, Mr. David Goodnight, Mr. Timothy Burkhart, Wayne and Barb Vibbert and others, I developed the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund and I made a significant initial start-up donation.  The Fund is administered through the Free Methodist Foundation and by a North American Governing Committee (Mr. Lloyd Ganton, Rev. Burton Hamilton, Bishop David Kendall, Rev. Mark Van Valin and Dr. John McCready) and an African Governing Committee (the late Bishop Elie Buconyori, Rev. Deogratias Nshimiyimana and Dr. John McCready).

Through its Student Grants Program, the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund provides grants to HAU students and graduates.  In providing development grants directly to students and graduates for development projects that they design and implement themselves, it is the first of its kind in Burundi.  There has been three Calls for Proposals and the Student Grants Program of the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund has provided $1,500.00 grants for eight development projects and ten students or graduates of HAU.

• Pig Farming at Muyebe, Eddyne Irankunda, Evelyne Kanyana
• Tailoring for Women at Kinama, Christine Kamirameya
• Improved Food Security at Kabezi, Marie Nadège Twagirayezu, Anicet Nyandwi
• Welding Workshop at Buterere, Kilongo Banyakwa, Henry Milenge
• Farming Goats at Gatwe, Jean Claude Ngendakumana 
• Development of Vegetable Culture for the Self-Financing of IAP Twubake, Anicet Nyandwi 
• Farming Rice in Gihanga Commune, Ezechiel Manirakiza
• Improving Food Security through Chickens at Karurama, Fidèle Niyoyita

The Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund has allocated a total of $12,000.00 US to eight development projects and $1,000.00 for a monitor and reporter.  I have developed and maintained a website to keep people informed on the Haley McCready Outreach and Fund and its activities. 

In addition, I have started a process to publish a book that will highlight an unpublished manuscript by John Wesley Haley on building the indigenous church.  With support from Dr. Howard Snyder, the plan is to have four major parts with contributions from Bishop Gerald Bates, Rev. John Wesley Haley (edited by Dr. John McCready, grandson), Bishop Elie Buconyori and Rev. Dan Sheffield.  Using money donated by the ‘Hamilton’ Family, the Haley McCready Outreach and Development Fund has provided a special $1,500.00 development grant for a research assistant, Rev. Evariste Harerimana, to conduct research, conduct interviews and write-up a report card or status report on the indigenous Free Methodist Church in Burundi.

As I was getting involved with HAU (early 2009), I met a board member of Spring Arbor University (SAU), Marvelle Vannest.  In support of my planned work in Burundi, she told me that SAU was developing a global strategy and she strongly encouraged me to meet with the President of SAU to share and exchange information.  I met with President Charles Webb, Carla Koontz, Diane Kurtz and Rod Stewart.  Ever since, I have stayed in close contact with Carla Koontz, who became the Executive Director of the SAU Center for Global Studies and Initiatives, and I have benefitted greatly from her support. 

The SAU global strategy suggested the development of partnerships with a few selected projects in other countries.  As the SAU global strategy was being rolled-out, I was advocating for the development of a partnership between SAU and HAU.

At HAU, I met Dr. Betty Overton-Adkins, former Provost of SAU and current Trustee of SAU, and she returned to SAU and worked with others to ensure that a Partnership Agreement was developed between SAU and HAU (even I had an opportunity to comment on a draft of the agreement).  I attended the Free Methodist Church General Conference at Roberts Wesleyan College to see the Partnership Agreement presented by SAU Provost Betty Overton-Adkins and Friends of Hope Africa University President Bishop Gerald Bates and signed by SAU President Charles Webb and HAU Rector Bishop Elie Buconyori. 

With the support of Dr. Betty, Carla Koontz and Bishop Elie Buconyori, I have linked my work with the SAU and HAU Partnership.  As Carla Koontz could tell you, I have instigated the development of a directory of HAU department heads, supported a visiting professor from SAU and I have started to develop connections between and among SAU faculty members and HAU faculty members (Al Kauffman and Eric Manirakiza – Nursing; Bonnie Holiday and Brenda McGadney and Jacqueline Murekasenge – Social Work; and, Caleb Chan and Ben Mutua – Business).

SAU has a new Provost and a new President.  I recently met with Carla Koontz.  Carla arranged for the new Provost, Kimberly Rupert, to join us for the last hour of our meeting.  Marvelle Vannest offered to arrange an introductory meeting for me with the new SAU President.  Although I already knew the new President, Dr. Brent Ellis, Marvelle Vannest organized a meeting and I just met with the new President.  I believe I have and will continue to have the support of SAU.

Like my grandfather, I am committed to the development of the indigenous people of Burundi (capacity development) and I am committed to Burundians serving Burundians.  I know I have had, enjoyed and benefitted from the support of HAU.  I expect to continue my involvement with HAU and I plan to ensure my work continues to serve the priorities of HAU and the indigenous people of Burundi.