Readers, this is an update from the church which I traveled to Burundi with. A personal update will be in March's Story Sparks. Hopefully you are a subscriber! If not, you can go here to be added to the list.
First Presbyterian Bend
Embodying Spacious Christianity
Burundi News Update
First Presbyterian Burundi team has returned! (This photo is the hut that was built for First Presbyterian as a sign of our friendship with this village of Ndava.)
We have returned from an amazing journey to Burundi. When we left, our goal was to build relationships and see for ourselves what is happening with the Batwa people in Burundi. This indigenous group is marginalized in Burundian society. They lack basic rights and are invisible to most of their society.
We went to listen to their stories, to see their lives and to bring back what we heard and saw.
Our expectations were surpassed by visiting six Batwa villages – some had preschools, some had a health clinic, some housing and some almost no resources at all. In one village, a woman told of a baby whose mother had died. She and other women were taking the baby from hut to hut to see if other nursing moms were able to share some of their milk. The lack of basic needs was staggering and sobering. We shed tears even as we responded to the Batwa invitation to dance with joy. Along the way, we came to a refined understanding of the various levels of poverty that exist for this minority group and the power that small changes can have for them.
We were guided by Batwa leader, Evariste Ndikumana, who is one of only four Batwa in Burundi to have completed university. Evariste has been appointed to represent his people in the Burundi Parliament. And he does much more than that. He has established an organization to advocate for basic rights, provide education and help support sustainable change. Evariste traveled with us and introduced us to all six Batwa communities. He became a wonderful friend who we trust to direct us in this project. It was inspiring to see this young man lead his people with compassion, integrity and laughter. We are privileged to call him a friend and partner.
We have many, many stories to share; we’d like to invite you to join us Sunday, March 8 from 3:30-4:30 in Heritage Hall for pictures, stories and a little show and tell.
Maggie Hanson, Jane Kirkpatrick and Jenny Warner
Can You Help?
As many of you know, our church, First Presbyterian Bend, has raised more than $7000 to purchase national identification cards for Batwa who do not have them. This money covers a village that is about 2 hours outside of the capital city, Bujumbura. When we were there, we discovered there are two other villages close by who also need ID cards. It will be most cost effective to give ID cards to all three villages at once since officials will be coming from Bujumbura and their expenses are significantly more because of the travel. We need an additional $10,000 to complete all 611 people in all three villages.
We discovered the need was more urgent than we realized. National elections are coming in the summer and the deadline for voter registration is April 1. Having a say in this important election would mean so much to these communities. We promised to come home and tell their story and see if there were others that were able to give to provide for this need.
If you would like to give, bring checks made out to First Presbyterian Church with a designation for “Burundi” or give directly to African Road at http://www.africanroad.org/make-a-donation/ with a special instruction for Batwa ID cards in the payment window by this Thursday, February 26.
Sharing Burundi Stories
We have many, many stories to share, we’d like to invite you to join us Sunday, March 8 from 3:30-4:30pm in Heritage Hall for pictures, stories and a little show and tell. Here are just a couple pictures . . .
Village of Gahombo
This picture was taken in the village of Gahombo with our new Batwa friends. This village was the most impoverished we visited. People living on the top of a hill with no land and no access to basic resources.
Evariste Ndikumana, is one of only four Batwa in Burundi to have completed university. Evariste has been appointed to represent his people in the Burundi Parliament and has established an organization to advocate for basic rights, provide education and help support sustainable change. Evariste traveled with us and introduced us to all six Batwa communities.