‘Amahoro’ in Matana

Global community

‘I was abandoned by my father. Being an orphan when I was a child, I used to think that I was not like other human beings, but thanks to this opportunity I now feel like I can do anything.’

My name is Elvis, and I live in Matana – where the ICS Burundi teams are based – and I have wanted to be on the International Citizenship Service (ICS) Programme ever since I saw teams working in my community.

Given my difficult childhood, I used to think that my ideas were useless. However in September 2013 I was accepted onto the ICS programme as a national volunteer and I began a journey of personal growth. For the first time I found that me and my ideas were valued as part of a team.

I felt like I was able to contribute a lot to the programme and that my strength and wisdom was acknowledged. In the end the only difference between Burundian and UK volunteers was that UK volunteers had more resources. At first it was quite difficult for me to express my feelings, but with their encouragement and daily devotions, I felt affirmed. My confidence has increased and now I recognize that I am responsible for challenging myself and the world to help change mind-sets.

Development is about an exchange

It was amazing to work side-by-side with the UK volunteers and learn from each other within the team. I was able to show them how to use a machete and in return they taught me how to be efficient with my resources and time. One of the volunteers has shown me how to use the computer. I now hope to get an email account and connect with my team after the placement.

Initially, it was quite hard to understand their English because of their accents, but by persevering over the 10 weeks together, I have improved both my English and my understanding of Western culture. Whilst I have been on this programme, I have learnt a lot more about what poverty is and how I can help, primarily through education. In Matana, some men think that household chores are not for them. However, by helping in the home they enable women to work and contribute to the community. Equally, some women think that they can’t make bricks. We have seen both these stereotypes being challenged and changed around successfully through the work we have been doing.

Previously I thought ‘muzungus’ (white people) would not want to get dirty, but they were keen to get involved in helping the community and everyone around them.

As I am from Matana, I was able to take my team to visit our local prayer group, my family, different churches and to watch schools play football. I go running with the team every other day and they come with me to our local running club on Saturdays. We are also going to teach the English class an English song to sing in the choir at church. Everyone now knows the ICS Tearfund Team!

One of the key moments for me was when I saw the UK volunteers keeping the housekeeper clean and setting the table before meals. It really challenged the way I viewed the West. Previously I thought ‘muzungus’ (white people) would not want to get dirty, but they were keen to get involved in helping the community and everyone around them. Their example has made me consider how I can help my community after the 10 weeks are up.

During an orientation workshop at the beginning of the placement we were asked to draw a symbol for our team. We decided on a Dove to represent peace. It turned out to be the perfect representation of our time together in Matana on the ICS programme – getting involved in the community, for whom peace (‘Amahoro’) is really important.


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