When you walk through Bubanza, you notice the hard dirt and fruitless shrubs. You see some people walking toward the main road to offer their manuel labor for scant Burundian francs, but many more are clustered around the community with poor health, lack of energy and no skills. You see plenty of kids. Most carry yellow tubs of water or gather sticks for firewood or some other chore.
What you don’t see is much hope.
It is hard to know where to begin… how do you transform the trajectory of an entire community amid such bleak circumstances? What lasting change can you offer?
Our deep sense is that we must begin by cultivating hope.
And we believe the best hope for the future health of Bubanza is education. But not just the ordinary curriculum on offer by the government – but a more expansive and energizing educational program that chart a new way forward for each community member! Life in Bubanza has always been hard and hopeless – but we want every person to see that the future for them can be otherwise.
Beginning with the young ones, we want to see increased strength in body and brain. This means getting birth certificates for all children 5 and under so that they are eligible to access the government health care. This will greatly increase their chance of survival – as statistics show this is the most vulnerable age group. We want the littlest boys and girls to grow strong because we understand that when they have the food, clean water and healthcare they need their brains also benefit – making them ready to learn!
So far we have issued 100 birth certificates, with 100 more soon to be issued. We have 800 more to go…
We know that formal education can be a great tool at the right age – and so we are actively working to build a school to host primary school classes. There are 954 children between the ages of 5 and 10, and as of now only 98 are currently enrolled in school. We want to see all of them in class one day soon. We plan on beginning with first, second and third grade classes… since these kids have never been in school they will all be starting together!
While the government offers formally trained teachers and a set curriculum, we believe that we need to supplement that with more innovative strategies to engage, energize and educate them for a world where they will need to be problem solvers and creative thinkers. We are dreaming of an extraordinary education for each one of them!
Those children that are 10 to 15 years old are considered young adults in Burundian culture and already expected to begin providing income for their families. We see these 621 young adults as the most challenging demographic in all of Bubanza. Claude observes that these are the ones who are ‘just waiting to die.’ They see their parents with no viable life, they see the barren state of their local landscape, they see that there is nothing any better on the horizon for them. They feel doomed to reproduce the same life of hardship. They lack vision, they lack hope. Claude is determined to make something beautiful for them…
We want to stare that hopeless down and write a better story. We want to show them that there is a future for them. This is where we plan to dig in deep and cultivate hope – to show them that life can be otherwise and we will stand with them to shape it.
So we are envisioning vocational training and literacy classes… so they can gain skills to make a living and build a better community, to not only support their families but see them thrive. Think sewing, wood shop, animal husbandry, agriculture, business 101… We want to see them light up as they grasp the truth that their lives can be better than what they have seen so far.
Isaiah tells us that people perish when they lack vision. When there is no dream for the future, we perish into a sea of hopelessness, we languish and loss energy. So to reverse hopelessness… we need to dream big.
So we are dreaming of classrooms filled with children… of all ages! We want that school to be a humming hub of educational energy for this community of friends. We want kids to enter school healthy, to learn to read and write, to grown into problem solvers and community builders. We want them to access the tools they need to succeed and shape a better tomorrow. It has to be more than just formal education for young ones, it has to be a wide education plan that includes every community member getting what they need to move forward. Our vision is classroom pulsing with life and activity morning, noon, night and weekends! Our vision is teaching, training, re-tooling and cultivating a hope these families can grab on to so that they can have a vision for their future!