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Get to know BFI Friends

Karorero Xavier

Optimized-Korero.jpgThis is Karorero Xavier, a 28-year-old Burundian from a family of 3 sisters, 2 brothers, and his father and mother. He is originally from Muhuta Commune in Bujumbura Rural Province, and currently lives in Ngagara Quarter VII in Bujumbura, Burundi. Karorero is among the three founders of the Burundi Friends International English Clubs, and is the General Secretary and Coordinator of these clubs. He is also currently supervising the conversion of BFI’s second library container. He is a teacher, a leader, and an inspiration to other Burundian youth, but like so many inspiring leaders, his journey of emerging into the person he is today is fraught with hardships, struggles, and obstacles.

As a boy, Karorero not only dealt with poverty, but faced abandonment from his parents as well as physical and emotional abuse from his aunt. Through everything, Karorero was able to overcome his hardships and is now a student at Hope Africa University, working on getting his Bachelor’s thanks to the support of BFI and its donors. Today Karoero works to better his country through his leadership in the BFI English Clubs. Karorero plans to take the lessons he has learned from his work with BFI to continue to help and inspire the future of Burundi.

“I like to be independent in my life, which reason push me to create my own business where I will not be given the orders. And if BFI is helping me today, you have to know that he is not helping me but he is helping the thousands of Burundians who is behind me waiting that I help them.”

Ashleigh Montgomery

bio ashleigh m.Ashleigh is currently pursuing her Master of International Affairs degree at Columbia University with a concentration in Human Rights and a specialization in Gender and Public Policy. She is also a member of the Women’s International Leadership Program at International House. Originally from Walnut Creek, California, she completed her undergraduate studies at the University of California, San Diego, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Theatre.

Ashleigh worked at a group home for children who were abused before serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Botswana, where she lived and worked in a rural village, teaching life skills at the local primary school and teaching English to youth. She worked with artisans to find sustainable markets and buyers for their crafts, and opened a distance learning school in the village to give those who had dropped or failed out of school a second chance at education.

Landing back in San Diego, Ashleigh worked as a case manager at a homeless women’s shelter, assisting women with housing, food, mental health, addiction, and clothing needs. Serving as an assistant peace corps recruiter at the UC San Diego Peace Corps Office, she recruited prospective volunteers through information sessions, career fairs, and speaking panels. As a teaching assistant for a new refugee public health practicum class at UC San Diego, she worked with the professor to create class content and lecture on conducting needs assessments in rural areas. Ashleigh then presented and co-published a poster for the class at the 4th Annual Refugee Health Conference in New York.

In 2014, she volunteered with Burundi Friends International, where she worked with the BFI President and fellow volunteer on education, healthcare, and economic empowerment projects throughout Burundi. Ashleigh visited BFI English Clubs in different regions of the country, partnering with the local youth leaders of these clubs to track progress and create plans for future clubs in unreached areas. She traveled to various health facilities, clinics, and hospitals to assess needs for future BFI donations, in addition to monitoring the effectiveness of past donations.  She co-created and facilitated a Women’s Panel, providing a forum for attendees to discuss issues disproportionately affecting women in Burundi and ways forward.

After returning to the US, she gave a guest lecture for a Human Sexuality class at UC San Diego, emphasizing women’s progress and challenges in developing countries. She continues to volunteer with Burundi Friends International, where she serves as the liaison for Women Vision Association Burundi, a group formed by young Burundian women to work towards gender equality and to practice English language skills. Ashleigh also works with Burundian youth to develop, write, and share their stories and biographies with the international community.

Furaha Yassin

Optimized-fumeraFuraha was born on December 25th, 1987 in Buyenzi, Burundi. She has received her Engineering Diploma from the Higher Institute of Technology in Bujumbura, Burundi. Furaha has worked as a teacher of general Telecommunication at Carama Technical High School in Bujumbura, as a private trainer of basic Microsoft software, and as a self-trainer of English grammar to foreigners. She is fluent in the following 5 languages: Kirundi, French, Swahili, Arabic, and English. Furaha envisions creating these changes through achieving one of her personal dreams: obtaining a Master’s degree in Telecommunications.

Furaha’s first learned about BFI when she met a few BFI members in the Cibitoke English Club, Burundi’s oldest and most well-established English Club. Inspired by this panel, Furaha helped to found Women Vision Association (WVA), a group that meets to discuss issues that disproportionately affect women in Burundi, to practice their English language skills, and to work towards women’s equality and empowerment. Not only is Furaha a co-founder of WVA, she is also the Chairwoman of the group. Furaha led WVA in their first major project on International Women’s Day in March 2015. Furaha’s leadership, ideas, and ability to inspire have been praised by other members of WVA.

It was not only this panel that inspired Furaha to start Women Vision Association; it is also her older sister’s story that inspired her. In 1997, an incident that occurred between Furaha’s eldest sister and their father opened Furaha’s eyes to the real inequalities women in Burundi face. Her sister was 14 at the time and to this day, she is unable to truly understand what happened to her all those years ago. Furaha finds courage in her sister’s story, and uses the memories of that day to work for pushing women’s rights forward in Burundi.

“In my life, I have gotten challenges on convincing people, when we wrote Women Vision Association Burundi, it was hard for me; I didn’t know where to start but I did my best to explain about Women Vision, we are now gathered together and undertake small projects together. I can support women associations because woman is a source of development in the world. I like women, study, sharing and peace; I don’t like injustice, tears of women. The unique thing about me and my story is a smile of women.”

Innocent Niyongabo

bio innocent n.Innocent was born in Bubanza Province in the eastern part of Burundi in 1991. Innocent lost both of his parents during the 12-year Civil War that took place in Burundi from 1993 – 2005, leaving him an orphan. He started with a big family and many relatives, including over 10 siblings, but the war left him with only 2 siblings and 2 step-sisters, both of whom were married. His parents died in 1995, and his step-sisters did not have the financial means to raise Innocent. Innocent experienced challenges as a child that many do not face in a lifetime. “We lived in a misery life without food, clothes and education. I myself had no hope to grow and later be as I am today. As we were still young and as I was a small kid of five, life could not treat me well. We could spend a day and a night without eating.”

Today Innocent is the Vice President of the BFI English Clubs and is pursuing his college degree. He continues to play an instrumental role as a leader in BFI. Innocent recently attended a leadership conference in South Africa to continue developing his skills, and wants to impart the knowledge and tools that he learned at this conference back to Burundi. “I met BFI in 2010 and meeting them has impacted my life and life of so many people. We started one English Club in 2011 with 35 students but until now I and my two friends, Fabrice Bizimana and Karorero Xavier, have reached out to more than 2,500 youth in 9 provinces. We teach them English to help Burundi, as a Francophone country, to integrate in the East Africa Confederation, and teaching English we facilitate Burundians to compete with other developed countries, since English is important in Business, Communication, Technology, etc… Also, we have expanded into 6 specialty clubs which are:

Leadership Club, Environment Club, Sport Clubs, Interpretation Club, Women Empowerment Club and Health Club. We are providing Leadership Education for free and more than 130 are trained to train others for free.”

His early experiences shaped his view of his beloved country and what role he can play in the future of Burundi and her people. “I got enough time to think why and what killed my parents and other many relatives. Then, after realizing that my parents were killed because poor mindset of Burundians, I could come up with a different idea and that idea started in my neighborhood, with youth teaching whereby we started a small group of youth just for having discussion in English. And to reach my goal I had to create small group of young leaders in which people get inspiration which lead them to transformation.”

Inspired by how far he has been able to come despite many obstacles, Innocent is excited to see how far he can go, with education and friendship leading the way.

“Finally I am a student and still I need your guidance, support and prayers to reach accomplish my goals. Thank you for friendship.”