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Why I won't stop serving in Burundi

By Andrew Horton | 08 May 2018

Desire Majambera is a man who won’t let the large, looming realities of poverty stand in his way.

Desire Majambere is a man who won’t let the large, looming realities of poverty stand in his way. From an early age he’s felt driven to help those who are most vulnerable.

‘I remember going into the camps for internally displaced people during the worst of the wars. I took bread rolls to give out among those in most need – at the time, we didn’t know what else to do. God helped keep me safe.’

Now over twenty years later he’s working as Tearfund’s Country Manager in Burundi, and leads our work alongside two partner organisations. 

A challenging context

Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world. It struggles both politically and economically and has had a turbulent history since independence in 1962. 

Tearfund has worked in the land-locked East African nation for many years, but the recent political turmoil has made this even harder. It has also meant around 415,000 people have left their homes for neighbouring countries.

On 17 May, there will be a referendum where President Pierre Nkurunziza is seeking constitutional change, which will potentially allow him to remain in power until 2034.

Desire says, ‘We pray to God that the social and political situation improves – and for Tearfund and its partners to have a safe and secure environment, so they can continue being salt and light in vulnerable communities.’

Desire in Burundi (Photo: Tom Price/Tearfund)

Desire Majambere, Country Manager for Tearfund in Burundi speaks to villagers at Rwisabi. (Photo: Tom Price/Tearfund)

Restless history

Desire has early memories of a family bent towards compassion:

‘When I was young, I watched how my parents and grandparents were always helping people. People would come to our house for help, and my family would share food and lend out our land. I guess helping people is in my blood!’ 

After a spell working as an auditor in an office in Bujumbura, he began to feel uncomfortable. He soon realised that the root of this was that his job was to help people, ‘I felt passionate about serving people in need,’ says Desire.

He started by doing voluntary work, before going to study community development in Cameroon for two years.

Returning to Burundi, he served with the Anglican Diocese of Matana for nearly 20 years, through times of national conflict and crisis. He started as Country Manager for Tearfund in 2017.

Not stopping

So what keeps Desire going, amidst the challenging context he works in?

‘I am inspired by God, because he has called me to serve, to be salt and light. That’s what motivates me. I want to help others, to see them overcome poverty.

‘It’s amazing to hear people testify about the change happening in their lives… to tell me, “I am no longer a beggar!” People greet me as a friend. They show me the colour of their children’s hair – that it is no longer discoloured by malnutrition. They tell me their children are back in school. This makes me feel proud and happy. Sometimes, I have given my own money to help people travel to hospital.

‘There are people suffering and dying here, not because they are lazy or forgotten by God, but because of the situation here. It is not their fault, but it is still killing them. If you help a dying person, you are not just saving their life physically, you are giving them hope for the future. We’re not doing what we’re doing to be paid back, but because we’re motivated by God.’

The scale of need

The shortage of food is critical in many areas of Burundi, leading to hunger and malnutrition.

Desire is acutely aware of the scale of the need. And he knows the agency for this change is the local church – God’s people in action.

‘I thank all Tearfund supporters in the UK. You are helping people you don’t know, and I want to say thank you. You are helping us to be salt and light in this place.

‘Pray for us as we look to build the capacity of local churches, so that not as much outside help is needed.

‘I will keep on doing what I’m doing to improve things in Burundi.’


Written by

Written by Andrew Horton

Andrew is Online News and Film Editor for Tearfund. This involves finding and writing up inspiring articles for the website, and capturing compelling stories on video.

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