Six days in Burundi

Kari Costanza checks in before moving on to Rwanda:

We are in Bujumbura—just back from six days in Gasorwe—so I can blog again. We didn’t have Internet access in Gasorwe. Or running water. My bathroom didn’t have a light either, so I brushed my teeth (with bottled water) in the dark. As the morning’s sunshine provided a bit of weak light in my bathroom, I noticed a giant cockroach flailing about in the shower. With no running water, the shower is just for show—or may serve as a home for cockroaches trying to clean up after a long day of nosing around for crumbs. I wondered how long he’d been hanging out in my bathroom, waiting for water. I was thankful for six days of darkness.

People on their way to a political rally.

People on their way to a political rally. (Jon Warren/WV)

I didn’t really mind not having a place to wash. (Much easier to say after the long shower I took as soon as I set my luggage down in this room in Bujumbura. I actually took two. The first one felt so good. Plus, I had a bit more dirt to wash off. After the first shower, my feet were still red—the same color as the earth in Gasorwe. I wonder if I remembered to wear shoes?) But really, it wasn’t so bad. No one in the community has running water or electricity. And very little food. The people of Gasorwe are eating vegetables, sweet potatoes and cassava—tubers so small they fit in the palms of their hands. They’re harvesting too early because they don’t have anything else to eat.

We got to witness the beginning of child sponsorship in Burundi. In World Vision terms, it’s a little like watching man walk on the moon. This community has no idea what sponsorship is all about—yet. They don’t know where the United States is—yet. And, they don’t know how good their lives can become—yet. But they will find out.

The manager of the project is named Ferdinand Nzokirantevye. He is a dynamo. I shot some video of him addressing the mothers, fathers, and their children waiting to be registered for sponsorship. His body is in motion all the time—waving his hands, pacing back and forth, having an absolute ball. I actually want to sponsor a child in Gasorwe because of Ferdinand—and because the need is so great.

Ferdinand (in orange) at work. (Jon Warren/WV)

Ferdinand follows up a passionate speech about child sponsorship. (Jon Warren/WV)

We had to leave early today—actually in the middle of a church service we were attending—for security reasons. Yesterday, there’d been an ambush on the highway we were taking to Bujumbura. It was an attempted assassination on the governor of one of the provinces. Three people were shot and killed, but the governor was somehow spared.

Still, in Gasorwe, I always felt safe. I talked to so many people who are so tired of the fighting. They are ready for a development project to invest in their communities.

Goretti and her family.

Goretti and her family. (Jon Warren/World Vision)

I can’t wait to write this story. It will feature a girl named Goretti and her family. They live in a falling-down banana-leaf hut. Goretti didn’t pass first grade last year. She missed too many days due to hunger. She was just too weak to go to school. But when she heard she’d failed, she marched into the headmaster’s office and asked him if she could try again. How could he refuse? We heard her sing at church today. Goretti is a driven little girl, who, with a little assistance, can live a wonderful life. She wants to be a teacher and already practices by teaching her little brothers math and the alphabet. I hope she gets a great sponsor!

It’s on to Rwanda tomorrow—a place that’s had sponsorship for about a decade. We will see what can happen with sponsorship in a similar post-genocide context. I’ve been to Rwanda before and am looking forward to going back. It’s beautiful and haunting. But I will miss Burundi. I am adding it to my list of favorite countries in Africa. The list just keeps getting longer…

Note: While preparing this story for the magazine, Kari learned that the little girl’s name is Collette, not Goretti. 

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1 Comment

Filed under Burundi/Rwanda, On Assignment

One response to “Six days in Burundi

  1. Sandy

    Kari,
    So enjoyed reading your blog. I was searching online about my strike claim with Kenya Airways. I was trying to leave Bujumbura on Aug 16. Had much the same experience except our mission trip leader decided three of us (women from the US) should travel with her and her driver all the day to Dar Es Salaam, TZ to catch a plan out of Africa. 36 hours on the road even through the night…missed my flight by 5 minutes and so spent two days in Dar. I have many friends in the US who are refugees from Burundi and actually met about 40 of their family members who still live in BJ. How my heart broke and continues to break over their experiences but I marvel at their courage, strength, faith and commitment to restore their country. I was truly blessed to be there! I am thankful World Vision is partnering with them.

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