Great things grow from small seeds. For two dedicated men, a seed was planted in the refugee camps of Tanzania. Community services supervisor Lameck Nyabenda and social worker Ntibatuma Syldie were helping refugees who had fled from civil war in Burundi to the camps of Tanzania. The men decided that they must continue their work of building communities and educating for peace in their home country of Burundi.
A village in central Burundi showed a way to put this plan into action.Syldie is now a church pastor in Kaniga village. The population is a mix of Hutu, Tutsi, and Batwa tribespeople: repatriated refugees, internally displaced persons, and locals who remained through years of civil strife. Through Syldie’s encouragement, the village women – many of them widows – formed an association called Mutual Aid, Solidarity and Reconciliation in Action for Development. Its mission is to generate income and promote peace and reconciliation in Kaniga village.
Yet what could these brave women do, and how could they possibly afford it? Their primary food staple – ubutsima, umutsima, or ubugah – is made from ground corn meal. But the closest milling machine was 6 km away, a very long walk with a heavy bag of grain. The women conceived the idea of building a milling facility in the village. But how could they manage the cost? Enter Lameck, now a student at San Diego State University majoring in international security and conflict resolution. Lameck brought a proposal from Kaniga village to BFI. The result? Your donation of $3,714 purchased a milling machine, and the jubilant villagers quickly raised a building and installed it.
The inaugural celebration on June 23 was a day of joyful dancing and thanks! And this gift will keep growing! The villagers plan to keep 50% of the milling proceeds and use the other 50% as “seed money” to duplicate the program in other areas. BFI is grateful for the opportunity to help this remarkable women’s association, recognizing its great vision to live at peace and solidarity with all Burundians.
Together, we can help Burundians break down divisions to build strong and peaceful communities. Will you join us?
Your gift of a milling machine now provides food and revenue for 1,976 people.
“By assisting this group, BFI not only is improving the economic empowerment of the women and the community, but also we are promoting peace by making the women continue to work together and ultimately reach their goal of cultivating peace.” — Lameck Nyabenda
From Loss to Leadership: Innocent Niyongabo
“You guys really know how to change this nobody person into somebody.”
As a young child in eastern Burundi, Innocent Niyongabo was well-acquainted with hardship. When Burundi’s 12-year civil war began in 1993, Innocent was only 2 years old. Over the next few years, he lost both of his parents and most of his relatives. The young orphan was left with 2 siblings and 2 step-sisters. “We lived in a misery life without food, clothes and education. We could spend a day and a night without eating.”
But Innocent’s life took a turn for the better, and his positive outlook allowed him to thrive and help others. In 2001, Innocent found a new home at My Father’s House Orphanage in the capital city of Bujumbura. There he grew strong and gained an education. “Throughout the years in the orphanage, I could teach other children the word of God and help them understand we have a great Father in heaven and that the way we experience the truth of who God is, the more his unconditional love overwhelms our situation.”
Innocent’s early experiences shaped his view of his beloved country and the role he can play in her future. “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.” Innocent joined his friends Fabrice Bizimana and Karorero Xavier to create the BFI English Clubs, neighborhood gatherings of youth teaching other youth. A variety of leadership clubs followed. Today, Innocent is Vice President of the BFI English Clubs and is pursuing his college degree at the International Leadership University of Burundi.
In partnership with BFI, Innocent sees a bright future. Young Burundian men and women by the thousands are learning English and gaining leadership skills to help Burundi become economically competitive. “BFI members, you have been my greatest inspiration, beloved friends, biggest cheerful leaders and the most valuable people in my life. Since the day I met you, I have forgotten about my past.” Innocent is excited to see how far he can go, with education and friendship leading the way. “You guys really know how to change this nobody person into somebody.”
Will you help Innocent and others like him make the world a better place?
A Mother’s Heart: Lessons in Giving
“If only people are given a chance … give them hope.”
A San Diego mother teaches us all how to pay it forward.
One of BFI’s strongest supporters is a gentle, humble woman who provides support through financial assistance in college education. She herself grew up in poverty and was unable to complete her college education. Finding new opportunities in the United States, she had the strength and courage to build a better life. She and her husband committed to sending all of their children through college. Yet this was not enough. She felt called to do the same for young people around the world. She says quietly that she is doing this work for God. “I know how it is to be hungry, how it is to go without.”
And still it is not enough for this loving mother. “I want my daughter to understand what I am doing, so someday she will do it for herself.” She is providing funds that will enable her daughter to put a Burundian student through college. Both mother and daughter feel a bond with Dieudonné Nyamibara, whose goal is to create an education center in Burundi. Their contribution will cover his college tuition and put him on his own road to “pay it forward.” Our mother plans to do this with her other children as well: “I’d like them to know how lucky they are to be given a chance to have education and help other people.”
Will you join in this mother’s good work? BFI’s tuition assistance program, established in 2015, is off to a promising start in 2016, with tuition sent for 2 students and Diedonné’s fees covered by our mother-daughter team. But another 8 deserving students await your help to fulfill their dreams. Your pledge of $108 a month – $1300 a year – will cover full tuition costs for one student. To honor the support others have given to you, will you pledge all or part of that?
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- COVID-19 Pandemic in Burundi
- Q&A with Dugan Lamoise, on BFI’s Women Empowered Project
- Let's Bring #GivingTuesday to Burundi!
- Happy International Coffee Day!
- International Day of Peace: What Climate Action for Peace Means for Burundi
- Summer 2019 Trip With Executive Directer Julie Marner
- Meet BFI’s Newest Intern!
- BFI Founder to Receive Erskine Award