Friday, 22 November 2013

Interview: G.I.A. students from Homes of Hope

This September, four children from Gitega Homes of Hope started at Gitega International Academy, the private, Christian, English-speaking boarding school run by Burundi Youth for Christ. 
Two months into the new term, I went to visit Edgar, Tharcien, Olivier and Kersy to find out how they were coping with the transition and life at boarding school. 

The interview took place in the headmasters office without a translator. It was exciting to see how good their English is getting as they were able to understand my questions and give simple answers in what is currently their 3rd language. (Which just puts Western language learning to shame!)

Once they realised that they had not been summoned to the Headmaster's office because they were in trouble (oops! - perhaps I should have thought about that) they relaxed and were happy to talk to me. Tharcien took the lead, leaning forward in his chair and confidently answering the questions. The others added extra information and added their opinions to the conversation. 

Me: Do you like it here at GIA?
Thacien: There are many good things.
Edgar: We make many friends
Tharcien: We learn to be good pupils
Kersy: We learn English

Me: You already learnt English at Future Hope School. Is it hard having all your classes in English?
Tharcien: Sometimes, at the beginning
Olivier: It’s good
Kersy: Some people struggle with English

Me: What’s the best thing about being at GIA?
Olivier: We make new friends
Tharcien: We do homework ourselves, in the evenings  (Note: Before, their homework time was very structured and guided, now they have more freedom and responsibility)
Edgar: Good food

Me: How did you feel before you came?
Thacien: We were scared because everything was new
Kersy: Scared about making friends

Me: And what about now? Have you made new friends?
(All nod vigourously) Yes
Edgar: Lots!

Me: Have you seen people from Homes of Hope?
(All beam enthusiastically) Yes
Tharcien: They come on Visitation Day

Me:What are your favourite subjects?
Tharcien: English
Kersy: Maths
Olivier: Science
Edgar: English

Me: Have you joined any clubs? (extra curricular)
Tharcien: Basketball
Edgar: Football
Lesly: Drama, Girls sports.

At this point I was concerned that they would miss out on their lunch, so I thanked them and sent them on their way.

 There were still a couple of questions that puzzled me, so I went to the staff room to talk to a variety of teachers, to ask how they thought the students were settling in.

How are the children from Homes of Hope doing?
- They’re doing great. They’re the best English speakers in their class.
- When they arrived they had more English than 90% of the pupils in their class, so they answered more questions than anyone else.
- Academically, they’re probably in the top 10% of their class.

Some GIA pupils are the richest and most privileged kids in Burundi. Is there a difference between them and the kids from Homes of Hope?
- It’s great, you can’t see a difference at all.
- They bought them some nice clothes to wear in the evenings and weekends just before they came, so they wouldn’t stand out.
- They’ve all made friends, Tharcien especially is very popular
- The other kids know about Homes of Hope. They’re fascinated; on the first Visitation Day, Regis brought all the kids to visit them, and they kind of took over the place. [laughs] Now he just brings a house of kids, and they rotate every time.
- I’ve never heard of anyone giving them any trouble. All the students have just slotted into life here at GIA, regardless of what life was like before

Homes of Hope Gitega

Deep in the heart of Burundi, surrounded by hills and valleys as far as the eye can see, lies Gitega, Burundi's second city.
A short distance away from the town centre, down a bumpy dirt track road, is Burundi Youth for Christ's most developed program, Gitega Homes of Hope.

Once you enter through the colourful, painted gates, you can see the spread out buildings clinging to the side of green, grassy hillside. Smoke rises slowly from the charcoal cooking stoves as House Mamas prepare food for the children. Brightly coloured clothes hang drying on the washing lines. Outside of school hours, the children play.

Gitega Homes of Hope currently houses 36 orphans, a diverse mixture of ages and ethnic backgrounds all growing up together.

Sitting casually on one of the house porches last Sunday, basking in the warm afternoon sun, it was great to watch the children play with skipping ropes. The gentle rhythmic swish of the rope brushing against the ground, joined with the happy laughter of contented children; it was a beautiful sight.

These children have had some of the worst starts in life imaginable, but now they have a new home, a fresh start, masses of exciting opportunities, and a new life. Reminds me of the prophet Isaiah speaking, "...a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." (Isaiah 61:3).
I find this such a beautiful picture of how God longs to welcome us home as his children.

Once these children were hungry, homeless orphans. Now they have food, a good education, people who care for them, and every opportunity to grow into tomorrows leaders and shapers.

Now that's worth getting excited about!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Like a little child...

Yesterday I (Rachel, volunteer with BYFC) was sorting through some video recording devices, and managed to download some of the previously recorded videos. I haven't yet found out who filmed them, or when, but I enjoyed going through one by one and watching them on the computer.

Suddenly, I came across one filmed in the church in Cibitoke. I enjoyed watching the joyful music and singing, but my eye was drawn to a kid with blue shorts standing in the front row.

If you've not seen the video, you can view it on our Facebook page (posted 12th November 2013)

All the kids were singing and clapping, but this little chap was really enjoying himself. Jumping, clapping, spinning round, waving his arms in the air; his joy and enthusiasm is contagious. He wasn't restricted by what other people around him were doing, nor was he caught up in worrying what people would think of his dancing. He just danced; for him and for his Father in Heaven.

I watched the film several times, a smile spreading across my face. I found myself almost wistful, wishing I could be that free to worship God without worrying about anything. (I'm British, our reputation for being reserved is pretty accurate!) 
I suddenly remembered the words of the Bible verse, "like a little child"

"14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them,“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them."

Mark 10:14-16

I did a quick search through the Gospels, and you can find the same section in Matthew and Luke, it's in the Bible three times.
Now I don't know about you, but if someone tells me something three times, I know it must be important.
It's like when I was a child and my mother asked me to do a chore. The first request, I might be able to get away with pretending I hadn't heard. Second request required an acknowledgement like calling "Coming!" down the stairs. By the third request, I knew I had to get downstairs instantly or there would be trouble!
This must be an important message he's trying to teach us.

I think God can teach us a lot through children about loving and worshipping him. As we get older we make our lives so much more complicated, it's important to remind ourselves of the simple essence of our faith, a Father who loves us and wants us to enjoy spending time with him. Here with Burundi Youth for Christ, we are privileged to be able to work with children and young people, and it's amazing what they can teach us.

I don't know if I'll be dancing in church this Sunday... maybe...
But my prayer today is that God will help us to strip through our man-made reservations and become more like the child in the video, worshipping God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Opening Ceremony for Future Hope School, Cibitoke

Burundian drummers

The pounding of drums thundered across the yard, as the traditional Burundian drummers leapt and spun in the air with boundless energy, their vivid red, white and green outfits fluttering in the breeze.

The audience clapped and cheered, caught up in the excitement and celebration of the event. Food and drink was served, and a great time was had by all.

Earlier that day, Future Hope School, Cibitoke had been officially opened by Ted Bosveld from Villages of Life, Australia. The ribbon stretched across the entrance had been cut, allowing honoured guests, parents, children and important officials to tour the new school. From the shiny new classrooms to the computer suite, it was amazing to see the new opportunities that Future Hope School, Cibitoke would bring to pupils from the local area.

Kids performing

The children themselves performed speeches and songs that they had already learned in less than a month at school, which greatly impressed everyone watching.

The parents' representative gave a speech, expressing how happy the parents were that their children would get the opportunity to learn English and computer studies, subjects that are rarely offered in primary schools.

The ceremony was filmed, and later shown on Burundian National Television.
We are so thankful for everyone involved in the building of the school, and getting ready for the opening. It will be great to see follow how the children learn and grow over the next few years.
Why not come back and journey with us on this blog, as we try and share a snapshot of life here with Youth for Christ, Burundi.