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Drumroll please! Today we caught up with The One, The Only, The Very Heartbeat of BFI itself, Mr. Fabrice Bizimana!
You heard it from Julie first – she thinks Fabrice will be the least prepared for RAGBRAI because, in her words, “He thinks RAGBRAI is a special Iowan language meaning vacation.” But what does Fabrice have to say about this? There’s only one way to find out, and that’s to read on.
Find out what BFI means to Fabrice, why he views the organization as family, who he thinks will be most and least prepared for RAGBRAI, and what he wishes the world knew about his beloved Burundi! Don’t miss this first-hand opportunity to experience the incredible generosity of people in one of the world’s poorest countries.
Our second exclusive interview is with the founder, heart, and soul of the BFI English Education Program, Fabrice Bizimana:
1. What is your affiliation to BFI?
I view BFI as a family. Families set a good example, are there for you, comfort you, and lead you the right way. That’s what BFI is to me and to many others. It helped us to grow and it empowered us. Today most of who I am is because of BFI and all the inspiration.
We’ve been working and growing the BFI English Education Program. It started in 2011 with 35 students and 3 teachers, and now there’s over 55,000 students and almost 4,000 teachers! Talking to In-Country Presidents Innocent and Karorero, I’m like ‘Wow this is crazy. It is having an impact in people’s lives.’ We kind of knew this would happen when we saw BFI grow so fast in Bubanza Province, and we saw the power of the seeds we were planting back at that time.
We used to ask people ‘Do you know how many seeds in a mango?’
‘Yeah one’, they’d reply.
‘Do you know how many mangos in a seed?’
So, we knew we were planting a seed that would bear so many fruits. We got so many mangoes out of one small seed.
What is my role? Some call me President, some call me brother, some call me teacher. Mostly I feel like an Ambassador of the young people in Burundi. I feel the young people will see the dreams they hope for Burundi one day in their lives.
2. Why are you participating in RABGRAI this year?
First of all, I didn’t know RAGBRAI until Julie introduced it to me. For me, behind exercising, cycling, and everything done in RABGRAI, I see it as an opportunity to represent Burundi. To bring awareness and let people know about Burundi. It’s a small country, known as ‘The Heart of Africa.’ It’s a chance to ask people to check out our country and see what BFI is doing there. And to tell people to help out and to empower. We need so badly change and innovation. So, I see it as an opportunity to say ‘This is what we’ve been doing and this is how you can help.’ You never who will be interested and you never know who that person may be.
We met Julie back in 2011 and through her it was a door for blessing, empowerment, and inspiration. A door for the youth, projects, tuition, scholarship, books, libraries, knowledge, love, and friendship. I’m expecting the same thing.
3. Who is the athlete that most inspires you in your training for RAGBRAI and why?
There’s so many athletes out there in the world, and a few times I heard about Muhammad Ali. He was a very inspirational man. There’s one quote of his that says “I hated every minute of training, but I said ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’” And I would connect that quote towards what we’ve been teaching to young people in Burundi since 2011, when we decided to take English Education to the community, make a difference, and impact the young people. We used to tell them ‘You are champions of destiny. You are the solutionists. No matter how difficult it is, keep training; no matter how difficult it is, don’t quit. Because you can be a champion in the future.’ So, I turn to his inspirational words even when I know it won’t be easy. I always drive 66 miles a day roundtrip from home to work and from work to home. And now it’s 61 miles a day on a bicycle. But we will do this for Burundi and we won’t quit and we will represent for the kids in our country.
I remember when I was a little kid I would walk an hour to get to school and another hour to come back to my house after. But that didn’t wear me out or push me to quit. Every day I hoped something good will come and that one day I will get an education, get a family, and I’m not discouraged. I still work for that. And it has paid off. There’s so many things in my life which I’m grateful for.
4. If you could tell the world one thing about Burundi, what would it be?
I think one thing that stands out for me is the generosity of the people of Burundi. I think you may experience it more as a visitor or a stranger to Burundi, how the warm welcome of Burundians feels. Burundi has no resources, no connection, and no money – it’s listed amongst the poorest countries in the world – but people continue to love and to welcome strangers into their house. Generosity is not built on resources. The good things that can come out of poverty and pain stand out. You will probably never experience this kind of generosity anywhere else, because it’s so genuine.
I remember back in 2011 when I met Liz and Kacey for the first time and I went to receive them at the airport. I remember we didn’t know them but Julie told us that they were coming, and we were already connected to them. We brought them notes. The next day, we didn’t have money at that time, but we brought them mangoes and took them to their hotel, because that’s what we thought we had to offer our guests. The very next day, we didn’t care where they’re coming from or which hotel is hosting them. We didn’t think, ‘Oh they have enough’. We thought, ‘We have to get mangoes because we’re proud and so excited to have them in Burundi.’ That’s an example of how we were trying to express our generosity.
You experience it when people come to your house. When Burundians come to your house and you are a visitor, they will come with food, with chickens, and even those who don’t have enough to survive, they will do this. Remember they are the hungriest people but they have the heart.
5. Which of the Cycle4Burundi Team members do you think will be most prepared for RAGBRAI come July 22nd and who do you think will be least prepared? Why?
I think the most prepared I was going to say is Julie, but I’ll go with Doug. And the least I would say is Krista because she is a busy one. After Krista, I’m the next least prepared.
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