(I've changed the name from "Rants" given that I can't really rant about many things that frustrate me here, at least not without getting into some sort of trouble. As such, you'll have to wait for the book.)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Children to the Rescue

Not always easy to keep up with the blog. It’s not that there is a shortage of subject matter. Usually so much going on that I don’t have time to write it up.

On the work front, we have been continuing to deal with the aftermath of losing so many staff over the past few months. I feel we’re making progress but we have a ways to go. We have an organization coming in to work with us in dealing with trauma. In the Bujumbura office alone we have about 150 staff, most of them impacted by the deaths of their colleagues (some we’re hired more recently). Many others in our field offices have been impacted as well. 

One thing that has been important to remind staff, and they know better than I do, is that there are no shortages of ways to die in the country – certainly as compared to the Western world. This sort of thing will continue however likely not at the pace we’ve been experiencing. Ranked as one of the five poorest countries in the world (with some stiff competition), there are lots of ramifications. According to the Global Hunger Index of 2013, Burundi has an indicator ratio of 38.8, earning the nation the distinction of being the hungriest country in the world in terms of percentage (though not common, Priya and I have seen people lying on the roadside near our house unable to continue walking due to hunger). And the country ranks 181 in the world with regards to life expectancy (53). It’s a stark reality that things are challenging and there are many fronts where the battle needs to be fought (health care, road safety, food security, etc.). We’re hopeful that the elections next year will happen without major security problems and the gains in these areas will not be unraveled. 

Bwagiriza Refugee Camp

Going back to my previous field visit, I think it went pretty well. I have not been visiting the camps and our projects as often as I’d like. With the trips to Rwanda and elsewhere, plus all the official obligations in Bujumbura, it’s a challenge to make the time. I’m always glad I do, however. 

Cross stitching activity for victims of violence

I started the visit in Muyinga where we work in two camps in addition to doing other post-conflict activities with the local population. Due to the shortness of the visit, I only had a chance to have meetings with local officials and then a group meeting with the hundred or so who work in our office there. The atmosphere overall was positive even though the news I presented wasn’t all good. I do feel like the team is generally understands that management is acting in good faith and that while complaints are welcomed, people will be expected to participate in solutions as well. 

at the youth center

The next morning I was off to Ruyigi to visit one of the refugee camps as well as have a general meeting with the team there. The camp visits are usually quite enjoyable, both to see the work being done but also to interact with the refugees. One of the visits was to a project working in support of victims of violence. 

it's all fun and games until someone makes me dance

Another was to visit a school where children’s activities were being carried out during the period before the school year begins. The kids were informed in advance of my visit and had even prepared a couple of songs and dances. As usual, one of the kids works her way in my direction and dances in front of me as an encouragement for me to join in. Of course I comply (albeit briefly) which generates loads of howls, cheers and laughter from the kids as it’s apparent that I can’t dance – more strikingly so when compared with a group of Congolese. But my ineptitude adds to their fun. The energy and hope of children serve as truly good medicine.

“Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play”.
-Heraclitus, philosopher (500 BC)

1 comment:

cps said...

Rich! I just enjoyed catching up on your blog. Never apologize (at least to me) for posting pics of your adorable children. Hope all is well.
Carolyn "pea-share"