You cannot help but be inspired by Léonard Ngendakumana. This man of vision and compassion dedicates his life to improving the lives of his fellow Burundians. Léonard is a driving force in FUCOS (Force des Universitaires Contre le SIDA et Promotion de la Santé), an organization created in 2000 to fight the transmission and spread of HIV, promote sexual/reproductive health and family planning, and eradicate gender-based violence. BFI is proud to be its partner.
FUCOS’ services are critically needed throughout Burundi, but one group truly stands out: the Batwa community. Comprising 1% of Burundi’s population, the Batwa were traditionally servants. Discrimination dominates their lives. For many years, the Batwa were perceived as backward, with no value or future. They were not even allowed to enter other people’s homes. This situation is only slowly improving. Batwa births are unrecorded, denying them legal status and rights to public amenities such as health services. Batwa children attend school for only one or two years, dropping out because of hunger.
Is there hope for the Batwa? Yes! Léonard and FUCOS, with financial support from BFI, are beginning to make a difference through the Better to Live in Area project. Despite recent crisis conditions in Burundi, the project is advancing. During the first half of 2016, FUCOS trained 240 Batwa leaders – men, women, and children in four targeted communities – to become peer educators in life skills, particularly healthcare, education, and self-empowerment.
The next step is for the new leaders to share this knowledge with their extended Batwa communities. They thank FUCOS and BFI for choosing their communities and praise the quality of the training. Group leaders in each province have expressed pride in the task entrusted to them and promise to focus all their efforts to generate tangible results. Their joy and hope are evident in the photo above, as Batwa community members dance in celebration with Léonard.
With your help, the future is becoming brighter for the poorest of the poor. Can we count on your continuing support?
– “In [Batwa] houses, there is no equipment whether bed or other material, the rain fall in.” — Léonard Ngendakumana
BFI Volunteers Awarded $10,000 “Projects for Peace” Grant
Burundi has suffered through 40 years of armed violence and civil war, rooted in political and ethnic tensions. More than 300,000 people have died in these conflicts. Political instability, unresolved grievances, extreme poverty, and the lack of access to educational and economic opportunities for youth continue to be major destabilizing factors. The question haunts us: is a sustainable peace only a dream?
But hope comes from unexpected places. Peace Where Peace is Needed Most is a new BFI program designed by Columbia University student Ashleigh Montgomery in collaboration with Fabrice Bizimana, with input from Karorero Xavier and Innocent Niyongabo. BFI volunteers are amazing!
The program begins with peace-building workshops run by FUCOS trainers certified in methods for violence- and conflict-prevention. A two-day workshop will be held in each of four provinces. In each workshop, 50 young Burundians will be trained in mediation, reconciliation, and peace-building skills. With continued support, these new leaders will form local focus groups and share their skills and knowledge with their communities.
The best news of all: Ashleigh and Fabrice have obtained a $10,000 grant through International House and Davis Projects for Peace. Peace Where Peace is Needed Most is going to become a reality! Training begins this summer to start Burundian youth on the road to sustainable peace, security, and development.
Peace. What a beautiful word.
A Deal Too Good to Miss!
AmazonSmile is an automatic way for you to support BFI at no cost to you. It’s the same as shopping at Amazon.com, and Amazon donates 0.5% of the purchase price to BFI. It’s simple: do your shopping at smile.amazon.com and select Burundi Friends International as your charitable organization. Then shop! View program details here.