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Koko Sossouvi blogging from Burundi.

Koko Sossouvi is one of our regular guest bloggers.

Koko Sossouvi is one of our regular guest bloggers. She’s blogging from Burundi.

I’m sitting under the roofed section of the Rugombo market, in the midday heat that’s so characteristic of Cibitoke Province. I’m here to celebrate the great achievements made by the HOPE project (Helping Orphans – Promoting Education).

The project, which supports children affected by HIV and AIDS, was put in place by our partner APECOS. Today, school materials and uniforms are being distributed to the 120 children supported by the project.

A singing bird

Before the distribution begins, some of the children perform a little play on the topic of skiving off school. It’s a fun and engaging little play about a singing bird distracting children on their way to fetch water before going to school. Genuine laughter and endless clapping spreads into the crowd.

Then comes the distribution. As the names of the children are called out, and the little people walk over to collect their school kits, I feel strangely emotional. These happy looking children, who have entertained me so well just a moment ago, are all orphans. Some of them have lost their entire family to AIDS. Many are actually HIV positive themselves.

When I am called over to make a speech in front of the audience, mid-way through the distribution, I wonder what I can say to such brave children. Inside I actually feel like crying. But looking around once more, I see nothing but joy and great optimism for the new school year. An incredible sense of purpose takes over me and the words come out easily.

Later, our partner points out to me a young boy by the name of Fuston Nibizi. Last year, Fuston was involved in a road traffic accident in which his 10-year-old brother Liévin lost his life. Fuston was badly injured in his leg. Today, he’s walking painlessly and is about to put on a brand new school uniform.