Burundi is the heart-shaped nation, located in the heart of Africa. Torn by civil war since 1993, the world knows little of the genocide in Burundi where up to 210,000 people were killed, and hundreds of thousands fled the country. Now with HIV, AIDS and Malaria, it is ranked as one of the world's poorest countries, and in some reports, the poorest. The Batwa Pygmies have the shortest life expectancy on earth, just 27 years old. Amazingly, the youth are filled with hope- hope for a better life.
There are many orphans in Burundi. I describe it as a Country of Children. I will be traveling back to an orphanage in the mountains of Burundi, to a town called Gitega, where at the Homes of Hope Orphanage, 34 beautiful children live. Each home shelters 8 to10 children. They live as a family with a housemother, boys and girls together, from all three tribes- the Hutu, the Tutsi, and the Batwa. These children are cared for, educated, and taught that they are the future of their country.
Each child’s story is heartbreaking, but they smile, and play, and love like all children. Last year, I visited the orphanage with a church from Charleston, S.C. We built a playground for the children. It was difficult for us to understand that this was the only playground in the entire country. We painted a mural of hope on the wall of their school, The Future Hope School. With the exception of advertising and political signs, it was the only example of monumental art that I saw.
In January, I return to gather the stories from Burundi. I am finishing my MFA in Creative Writing and Literature at Stony Brook Southampton in New York. I feel that it is my mission, through my words and my art, to spread the word about my beautiful friends who live in the heart of Africa.
I would never expect to visit my friends without bearing gifts. I will bring laptops, software, art supplies, but the thing they need the most is money. Any support that you can give will go directly for the benefit of the children.
The Homes of Hope Orphanage, The Future Hope School, and the neighboring clinic are supported and run by Burundi Youth For Christ, under the leadership of Freddy Tuyizere, as part of Youth for Christ International. (Youth for Christ International, begun in the 1940’s, had as it’s first chaplain, Billy Graham.)
The message I take to Burundi was told to me by the Archbishop of Canterbury at a Compass Rose Society dinner two years ago. “We don’t have to save the world. Our only mission in life is to take one step at a time, and with apologies to the Beetles, with a little help from our friends.” As these lovely children from the Homes of Hope Orphanage grow, we are their friends and here to help as we can, so that they will be able to take the steps to rebuild their beautiful country.