An amazing whirlwind trip with just 7 days on the ground in Burundi! We encountered warm-hearted people living in the most humble circumstances. We witnessed practical development work in action – transforming lives and communities. We saw the donations that were raised through Five Talents International being multiplied ten-fold, enabling the poorest of the poor to learn to read, count, and start their own micro businesses. The women (and a few men) whom me met through the program radiated the dignity and confidence that come with such hard-earned accomplishments.
Five Talents International is currently serving 18,000 Burundians in 750 Savings Groups, partnering with Mothers’ Union (the Anglican Church’s ministry to women). It was so heart-warming to hear women tell about the impact on their families: improved health because they can purchase nutritious food or install a new roof; or being able to buy school uniforms so their children can attend school.
Our team visited 3 savings groups (below left) in villages to the south and north of Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi and our home base for this trip. The groups welcomed us in modest church buildings, which also function as the village social hub. We observed their weekly meetings and after that members shared how their lives have changed since they completed a literacy and numeracy program and are now able operate their own businesses with the support of the savings groups. We witnessed firsthand what a loan of $18 to $40 can accomplish in a country where 90% of the population depends on subsistence farming to meet their daily food needs, where illiteracy is still widespread at 70% and where most people live on one meal per day.
A small glimpse of Archbishop Ntahoturi’s visionary leadership and practical approach to put Christian values in action that was evident in his meeting with our delegation was inspiring. We participated in two days of seminars with 24 Savings Group Trainers, and were impressed by the sacrifice and devotion of the women who manage and implement this program.
Burundi has garnered a special place in my heart and as I process my fresh impressions over the next weeks, I will tease out what it will mean for me professionally and personally as I am returning to my life in America. I hope to see the people I have met again and I hope that together we can find ways to lift the burden of poverty in a way that will be authentic to local culture and sustainable for future generations.