A trip in Burundi

by Michael Beeman I have a card from my grandmother, on the front of which, it is written, “Grandson, life will take you to some faraway places.”, and on the inside, “Know that wherever you go, love goes with you”.  It is true.  During a trip to a Care Group outside of Gitega, southeast of Bujumbura, I witnessed the power of community and God’s love.

In the Kibuye Health District, World Relief manages a Child Survival Project.  Through the Care Group Model, promoters train a group of volunteers on issues pertinent to Child Health, like malaria, diarrhea, and nutrition.  These volunteers in turn visit approximately 10 households to share this information.  The program is quite effective; malnutrition rates in children under 5 have plummeted to 8% from 36%.

With a few from WR offices, I recently journeyed from Gitega to the Care Group Meeting in neighboring Itaba commune.  For one hour, we traversed a severely rutted road.  Surrounded by hills of banana plants and coffee fields, we drove through heaps of mud and deep puddles of rain, only to reach narrower roads.  Along these roads were men and women coming and going, students at the end of their day, and toddlers who would stop playing and stare at the large, white Land Cruiser slowly making its way over bumps and around bends.

With the help of Lucie, the Care Group supervisor, we eventually made it to the school grounds where the Care Group met.  Once there, the welcome was naturally genial; greetings exchanged and a short song sung for an opening.

For this day’s meeting, the topic was nutrition.

They discussed the best practices to nourish children.  A couple acted out two skits: one showed the preparation of a meal low in nutritious ingredients, while the second showed the proper preparation of a meal that meets babies’ nutritious needs.  The subsequent discussion drew out the importance of a meal rich in micronutrients important for their babies.  The participating parents identified the problems in the skit and the solutions, which they in turn would apply themselves and share with their neighbors.  The discussion was successful; everyone actively participated and supported their peers in preparing the distribution of this knowledge.

Our departure hardly meant a disconnection.  Rather, the exchange strengthened the connection, in the spirit of turikumwe: although separated, we are together.  During the ride back home I thought of my Grandmother’s card.  Here, in the Itaba commune, the strength of community and the love of God were present.  In the beauty of the hills and the energy of the Care Group, the health and strength of families, World Relief, and myself were being restored.

Michael Beeman is a Program Research and Development Intern with World Relief in Burundi.

Photos by Marianne Bach

(1) A few of our World Relief health promoters in Burundi.

(2) Care groups are places of knowledge, learning, and relationship building.

(3) Mothers and children alike benefit through World Relief's care group model.