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Working with the world's poorest people to transform their lives

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Security and home cooking in Burundi

Today's guest blogger is Kokoévi Sossouvi, who has recently begun working with Concern in Burundi.

By the time I arrived in Burundi, I thought I was well clued up about the place.

It had been a week since induction in Dublin. I had read the history of the country, the Economist report, finished the strategic plan and annual plan on the plane. I was even au fait with the mighty 80-page Child Survival proposal that had just been submitted to USAID.

I arrived in Burundi to the news that fighting had broken out between rebels and the government forces in an area that Concern must regularly travel through. Because of this, the team had suspended activities in the Kirundo and Cibitoke areas and all staff was back in the head office. All this seemed to have happened overnight.

Two days later – after receiving security clearance for travel – I am on my way to Bugabira commune, in the Kirundo province. Bugabira is the poorest commune of the poorest province in one of the poorest countries in the world. The task ahead is enormous. Today, we are organising a meeting with some of the influential members of the community.

These community members have already identified what they feel are the biggest problems facing their area. We are here to help them come up with solutions for these problems. This way, funding is based on people’s actual needs, as expressed by themselves and not as perceived from the top.

At first, for many of them, some problems are seen as impossible to overcome. However, they soon realise that they have in fact already come up with a number of ingenious coping mechanisms.

There has been a huge turnout for these meetings – the room is full. As a contribution, we provide lunch for the participants. On the menu, beans, rice, bananas and stewed meat. This is the community’s own home cooking. Delicious!

The next day, we compile all the information we have gathered. We’ll be presenting this material at our forthcoming meeting with the Ministry of Development Planning. From this, we hope to get funding that will help the community overcome the problems facing their area. 

By now, it’s Friday already and before we know, we’re on the road again. It will be over four hours before we reach Bujumubura, crossing five provinces on the winding mountain road back to the capital city.

Read part two here.