After we finished up in Ruganirwa, we made the short walk over to Gahararo. We were met with more singing and dancing, which I always enjoy. The Batwa dances are so expressive and primal, and the way they dance is so unique. I love to watch it.
We met with a handful of the village elders to discuss the solar lighting project we did last summer. The big question on my mind was whether the Batwa had refrained from selling the lighting kits. I was concerned about this because I have heard of projects where the disadvantaged people received something potentially life-changing like, say, livestock, and they end up selling what they receive. It’s understandable that a Batwa would do such a thing. After all, they are in dire need of money and food. However, our intention was that the solar units not be sold for cash, and we made that perfectly clear.
What we learned was astonishing. Not one of the 72 families who received a solar system had sold the system for cash. What’s more, all 72 of the solar units, save one, are in operation. The one that is not in operation is broken and will be fixed.
You cannot imagine what a victory this is! It means that the Batwa have bought into our vision of partnering with them as full team members in our effort to help them develop. They are not merely recipients; they are fully active in bettering their community and helping it develop.
After we received the great news that 71 out of 72 solar units are in operation and that not one of the units has been sold, we held a general meeting with the whole village so we could ask them about the changes they had observed since the installation of the solar systems. I was blown away by how the villagers spoke up about their experiences with the solar lights. Several parents said that the lights are having an obvious impact on the school-aged children in the village. Before they received the lights, it was very difficult, if not impossible, for the children to study in the evening. Now, the children can study for as long as they need to complete their assignments. Several parents said that their children’s grades had improved markedly in the last year. The village leader asked me to extend the villagers’ thanks and gratitude to all among you who contributed to making the lighting project a reality.
One last thing about Gahararo. It has been in my heart for a couple of years to do some sort of sanitation project for the village. You see, the villagers currently use a designated field as their communal toilet. It’s unsanitary and does not allow for any privacy. As we were starting to leave, Etienne, the Harvest staff member assigned to Gahararo and Ruganirwa, told me that the Batwa had decided on their own, without any coaching from him, to do a project building a toilet for each of the 72 houses in the village. The toilets are primitive, to be sure, consisting of a hole at least 10 feet deep and then covered with some sort of seat and privacy covering. Nevertheless, they are a big step up from the field they have been using, and the fact that they came up with this idea on their own shows that they get it and are taking ownership in their development.
Praise God for what He is doing in Burundi!
President, GLOBAL CARE ALLIANCE
“A Collective Commitment to Care”
At Global Care Alliance, we believe in serving humanity by meeting the needs of challenged people living in any place God leads us. We believe that sharing love and extraordinary compassion is the best way to give thanks for the many blessings God has given us.
Greetings From Gahararo!