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.
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.
One in six children chronically malnourished
One in four people food insecure
7.3 million people living below the poverty line (65% of the population)
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.’
Pray for peace and restoration in Burundi, particularly with the upcoming referendum on 17 May.
Lift up those who are struggling in the current food crisis and pray that God will provide for their needs.
Pray for God’s wisdom and protection for Desire and our partner organisations.