Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Beautiful Faces at Shammah Health Center

Today we have a Guest Post written by Nadine, Medical Director of Shammah Health Center

Shammah Health Center is a special place. A place where our community is beginning to feel like they belong. A place of laughter, of joy, of hope, of sadness sometimes, of peace, and of healing. As we have almost seen 2000 patients, many of them returning, we are developing beautiful relationships within our community.
Beautiful Irakoze
Irakoze is a woman who came to Shammah Health Center with a breast infection after visiting many other clinics and hospitals and finding no cure. She doesn’t just have a breast infection, her entire breast is a tumour and it is still spreading. We had to tell her that she has end-stage cancer. She doesn’t have long to live. She is a Muslim woman, but knowing Shammah Health Center is a Christian clinic, she still came. On her initial visit, we asked her if we could pray with her. She said no. When she returned for a follow-up appointment, we asked her again, and she said yes. During the next visit, she not only said yes to prayer but she asked if we could pray for her whenever we think of her. I don’t know how long she has to live, but I know she was led to Shammah for a reason.

Baby Shakuru, earlier in the day before he passed away.
So tiny and beautiful

Shakuru. This tiny baby is the smallest person I have ever laid eyes on. He was extremely premature, but had been born 2 weeks prior and had survived that long in his little, under-developed body. His mama brought him in as he was having difficulty breathing. We stabilized him and after keeping him under observation for the day, he was about to be transferred to Kibuye hospital when he stopped breathing. We did CPR for 20 minutes and then he passed away. After closer inspection, we could see that this baby had severe disabilities and deformities that would have made his life very difficult. He is now with Jesus. This is the sixth baby his mother has lost as for some reason she is not able to bear children to full-term. This is devastating for the family. They named him Shakuru, which means “thankful.” We prayed with the family and comforted them however we could. I only pray that God used us to be a comfort to her in this time of extreme loss.

Mattias is a man with a parasite in his foot that got so infected, he lost his baby toe and developed wounds so serious we thought he may need a partial amputation of his foot. We wanted to transfer him to Kibuye hospital for surgery but he kept saying: “No, you guys can fix it!” We thought that was a sweet thing to say but it wouldn’t ever happen. However, with regular dressing changes at Shammah Health Center his foot is almost completely healed. He no longer needs to be transferred for surgery. Seeing Mattias has been one of the many joys of our work weeks.
Deborah, our little miracle
Little Deborah – The baby who choked on the orange seed and we revived… Her mother came back to pay her debt and brought Deborah for a visit. She is a thriving, happy, beautiful baby! A little miracle. Seeing her again was special for the whole Shammah team! Her mother said to me: “I had lost all hope. You saved my baby’s life.” Those are words that will stick with me the rest of my life. God is so good.

Shalissa – Baby Shammah as we like to call her….The first baby born at Shammah Health Center. Her mother, Pascalia, has been using our medical services for her family and is paying off her debts through our work program. She is such a hard worker and does it with such joy. She has been a huge asset in contributing to land clearing for our malnutrition program. And it is a treat to be able to see this family throughout the week and watch baby Shammah grow!

The first mama that joined our debt work program walked almost 2 hours one way just to pay us a visit and thank us for the time that we allowed her to be treated and pay her debt off by working later. This was a really moving experience for her, enough that she made this long journey just to thank us and bring us a basket of green bananas from her garden. 

These are a few of the most memorable stories I have to share from the last couple of months. It has been incredible to watch Shammah Health Center grow into the vision that God gave me for it much faster than I had expected. It has been the most beautiful story to be a part of.

Thank you for all your support and prayers.

You can read the original article and more of Nadine's writing on her Blog

Thursday, 3 July 2014

End of term...

The past few weeks have been a busy time for Burundi Youth For Christ, especially in regards to Gitega International Academy, which wrapped up their school year and sent the kids home for the summer. There will be a lot of construction work going on at GIA over the next couple of months as we prepare to add a new grade to the school. We are currently working on securing funds for the construction, and the process will begin shortly so as to be done by the start of the next academic year.

We are also saying goodbye to many of our long and short term volunteers who are heading back home, some to stay and some will only be gone for a season, but they will be dearly missed regardless. Our terrific headmaster of two years left near the beginning of the month, and we are in need of a new headmaster for the coming year. As well as some of our wonderful teachers and aids who are returning home to pursue the next chapter of their lives. We are sorry to see them go, but we are keeping them in our prayers that they will be blessed as they move on with their lives.

Alongside the end of the school year, we have begun the Bujumbura GIA summer classes that are taking place here at the BYFC Office. We have had a few short time volunteers come in already to teach music, bible and hygiene classes, and we eagerly await to see what the next volunteer teachers will have to offer these students.

It is crazy to see GIA add a grade 10 class to the school as it seems like only yesterday that the first grade 7 and 8 classes started at the school. GIA has grown so quickly in such a short period of time, and the kids have as well. It is so apparent that many of the students will indeed become the future leaders of Burundi because many of them are driven, hard-working, bold in their faith, and have a knack for leadership. We wait in anticipation to see the men and women that will come from Gitega International Academy, and the change they will incite within their nation.

We ask that you would keep BYFC in your prayers as we continue to teach the GIA students throughout the summer. That they would be driven and eager to learn even in the midst of their summer break.

May God Bless you all, and thank you for keeping BYFC close to your hearts

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Drumming Lessons

Last Thursday afternoon, the hills around the Homes of Hope compound in Gitega echoed with the sound of drums. On a level patch of ground above the houses, a semi circle of Burundian drums was set up, surrounded by an excited crowd of Homes of Hope kids having their first drumming lesson.

We had watched the children admiring the drummers performing at the opening ceremony for Shammah Health Center, and a donation was provided to buy some drums for the orphanage and lessons for the children to learn. Drumming is such an integral part of Burundian culture; we felt it was important for the children to understand their heritage.
Drums used to be used to communicate messages such as times to sow or harvest, the coming of war or famine, and to celebrate or mourn the different events in life. Each message had a different drumming pattern, and could be heard across long distances.
The royal drummers would be used to welcome the king whenever he visited a new commune.

The drumming master showed the children how to stand and hold the sticks, and then guided them in a selection of rhythms. They were pretty good at picking them up, stopping and starting almost in unison with the guidance of a few cues and gestures.

It was a very successful first lesson, and we look forward to watching their skills develop as they continue practising. Maybe one day the children from Homes of Hope will be able to welcome visitors to their home with their own troop of Burundi drummers. 

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Tour du Burundi

22 cyclists, 400 miles, 30,000 feet of  elevation...
Not a challenge for the faint hearted!
This is the Tour du Burundi; a 7 day sponsored cycle tour around our beautiful nation, the heart of Africa.

This year the tour is helping to raise money for two of our projects. Gitega International Academy (our secondary boarding school, which needs to build new dormitories before the next school year) and Shammah Health Center (recently opened, and longing to meet as many of the needs of the community as possible) as well as some other great projects taking place in Burundi.

The cyclists arrived from several different nations in the days leading up to the tour, including the USA, Canada, the UK and residents of Burundi.
After a couple of days to acclimatise to the heat, to be properly welcomed, and to try and recover missing luggage, we gave them a good send off last Sunday morning as they started the big adventure.

Sadly there have been cases of illness preventing some of the cyclists from riding every day, and one of the cyclists had a nasty accident and had to be taken for emergency treatment.

But apart from that, the updates from the team seem to be quite cheerful, despite the gruelling hills to climb!

On Day Three they arrived at Gitega Homes of Hope to visit GIA and Shammah Health Center for themselves. They also got to meet the children, who were very happy to welcome them.

The next few days take them up around the north of the country. Please pray for God's protection over them for the rest of their journey, and speedy recovery for those who were injured or ill.

We're so grateful for these incredible and intrepid cyclists who have given so much for the people of Burundi, and the work of Burundi Youth for Christ.
Imana Ibahezagire!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Opening Ceremony at Shammah Health Center

Today we have a Guest Post written by Rachel, a volunteer in the Head Office in Bujumbura

Five years ago, I used to live in the Gitega orphanage. When visitors came to visit, I would show them around the 3 kids’ houses and 2 classrooms of Future Hope primary school (all that existed at the time!) I would always finish the tour by taking them up the hill to see “The Clinic”. We would peer through the windows of the nearly-finished building, witnessing the dark interior rooms and rough unfinished floors, and we’d stand there and pray that one day the clinic would be open and patients would be treated there.

Saturday 5th April 2014 was the official opening ceremony for “The Clinic”, now known by its proper name of “Shammah Health Center
What a transformation!
The building now looks light, airy and welcoming; it is equipped with essential medical equipment, staffed by an amazing team, and had already seen nearly 400 patients in the four weeks since the doors had been opened to the public.

The day of the ceremony was an incredible experience. The morning was full of the hustle and bustle of staff and volunteers arriving, the decorators setting up tents outside the centre for the guests, beautifully decorated with draping folds of colourful fabric, and green foliage.
The children from Homes of Hope were incredibly excited, and eager to be involved. They enjoyed cleaning all the chairs that were arriving in batches by truck, and then forming a human chain to remove stones from the patch of ground between the tents where the drummers and dancers would be leaping around barefoot.
There was a huge team of people already preparing and cooking the food for the ceremony, and the famous Burundi drums were set up in a semi circle, the beautiful rolling green hills in the background behind.

The female staff and volunteers with BYFC were given traditional dress “imvutano” to wear for the day. It’s the first time I’ve needed help getting dressed for a while, but I didn’t have a clue how to tie and drape the fabric. Mine was a deep blue colour, and a little too long for me. It was originally tied high up, but gravity gradually pulled it down, until I started to get paranoid about tripping over it and falling face first whilst serving food to the honoured guests!

The ceremony was well attended, with some very important guests, including the Governor of Gitega and a representative of the Ministry of Health, not to mention teams from both the national television and radio channels.
If I’m honest though, I was just as excited about the hundreds of local people who turned up uninvited, attracted by the buzz of activity and the sound of the Burundi drummers echoing around the hills.

Oh, the drummers. They deserve a paragraph to themselves. The passion, the raw energy, the crazy leaps and somersaults in the air, the contagious excitement, it all makes them mesmerising viewing. Accompanied by the constant pounding rhythm, they danced, flipped and even crashed down dramatically into painful looking splits, which left the audience wincing in sympathy.
Much as I love my native British folk scene, I have to admit that we have nothing that compares to this.

There were speeches from all the important guests, there was food and drinks, there was a dance display from the children of Homes of Hope orphanage.

My favourite part of the day was at the end of the speeches when everyone was milling around and talking. Nadine (the Medical Director) went over to say hello to the crowd of local people who had come to see what was going on. One lady stepped out of the crowd and gave Nadine a huge hug. It turned out that this woman had come to the clinic a few days earlier with serious malaria. Having been treated by an IV drip, she had practically danced out of the hospitalisation room, praising God that she was healed, and telling all the staff that she would be back to celebrate with them at the opening ceremony. To see her turn up with the huge smile on her face, reminded me just how much of a difference this clinic is going to make to the local community.

It was an amazing ceremony, and a great opportunity to celebrate all that has happened here to get to this point. Shammah Health Center is going to make a huge impact in the neighbourhood, and I’m so excited that I get to be here as a witness. Look forward to more stories coming soon…

You can read the original article and more of Rachel’s writing on her Blog

Thursday, 3 April 2014

The Real Heroes

Today we have a Guest Post written by Haylee, one of our volunteer teachers at G.I.A, who lives at Homes of Hope, Gitega

Homes of Hope, the orphanage where I live at, is truly a family.
It is not the kind of place most would picture when you hear the word “orphanage.” When I used to think about orphanages, I would picture something like the movie Annie, where the children are unloved and unhappy; living in a temporary home and waiting for a family to love them. 

But this is not Homes of Hope. This place is no temporary living arrangement, but rather a forever home. And when kids are rescued and brought here, they are embraced by a loving woman they call “Mama.” Yes, these mamas are the real heroes.

Currently we have 40 children living in 5 different homes at the Gitega Homes of Hope. Each of these precious babies has brothers and sisters to play with and a mama who loves them as if they have always been hers. 

These women are the real heroes because unlike me, they have devoted their entire lives to this ministry. They are the ones who wake up at the crack of dawn to cook breakfast, to wash all the kids’ clothes by hand, to comfort the child after a bad dream, and to tend to them while they are sick.

In a sense, my job here is 9 to 5. While I do a lot outside of my “working hours,” I have the option to take a break and have alone time. But a mama is never off the clock. They are the ones who have dedicated their whole lives to their jobs;
24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They are always available when needed, and happy to be of service. 

The most beautiful part about our mamas is not what they do but how they do it. I have yet to see them without a smile on their face, and no matter what time of day I catch them - they simply radiate joy. These mamas love their job.

I know that people like me make a difference here, but we come and go. We receive compliments and support in abundance while these silent servants are doing the most important job of all. So I’m not trying to say that my job here isn’t important because it is, and I love it! But I at least want to make it known who the real heroes are

You can read the original article and more of Haylee's writing on her Blog

Monday, 24 March 2014

Streams of Living Water!

We now have running water in Cibitoke Homes of Hope!

This has been a process that has taken several years, and we are overjoyed that water now flows freely from the taps in all of the homes and the Future Hope School.

The House Mothers are greatly enjoying ease of access to water which makes their days so much easier now they don’t have to carefully ration out one bucket to last all of their chores. No more carrying top-up water long distances back to the houses.

Having running water will greatly reduce other costs, such as petrol, as we will no longer have to drive the truck back and forth to the nearest water supply to fetch everyone’s needs. It also makes it easier to obtain water to boil to create drinking water when the supplies run out.

The children now all have showers in their homes and have enjoyed offering to do extra cleaning around as an excuse to use the magic running water! Although we’re sure this enthusiasm to help will wear off once the running water becomes more normal and less exciting!

The water came on Friday night. Everyone gathered around the outdoor spicket as we turned the water on for the first time. The children laughed, played and danced in the cool running water and then we all gathered around to pray and thank God for the blessing of running water.

We need to say a special thank you to Modeste, the YFC engineer, who returned to Cibitoke to help get this project completed. His hard work, dedication and extra hours he plugged in to make sure all the plumbing was correct and ready, have really paid off. He loves the kids here and even stuck around late into the night to be sure everything was working and to share in the joy with the children.

A huge thank you to everyone who has prayed and supported us to get to this stage.
The joy on the kids faces as they splashed around in the running water is partly down to you!
Thank You!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Day One at Shammah Health Center

Today we have a Guest Post written by Josh, one of our volunteers and Executive Director of Shammah Health Center 

Teddy - first ever patient at Shammah Health Center
Meet Teddy, the first patient ever treated at the Shammah Health Center. He’s 3 1/2 years old.

He had a bug in his ear. Literally, we flushed a dead ant out of his ear. He was a trooper!

He also had worms in his belly, and we took care of those too.

So one day I’ll sit down and write the book “How to Open a Health Center in Rural Burundi in 492,000 Simple Steps.” Or does that sound more like a screenplay to you? For now this post will have to do.

Nadine and I felt like throwing up we were so nervous this morning. Could you imagine? We had no idea what this day would look like…. would we get 3 patients? Would we get 300?

Turns out we got 17, and it was amazing.

Staff outside the center
In a bit of a funny turn, we had over 50 people show up for our first education session on malaria, but then we found out that everyone showed up expecting free healthcare. That would be just amazing, but that doesn’t jive with the word “sustainable,” so off they went. Hopefully everyone that attended the session was a little more educated than they were yesterday. Out of the 50 people, none of the attendees, nor any of their family members had mosquito nets. Hopefully we can get our net distribution program off and running soon!

Turns out though, there’s a good number of people looking for quality healthcare at an affordable price, so we were kept busy for rest of the day!

Trying to prevent the loss of this man's
hand by cleaning out infection
We treated several cases of malaria, one severe case in a young little girl, I did an incision and drainage procedure, we treated others for intestinal infections, etc.

It’s hard to describe the feeling we had throughout the day. An uncontrollable joy, just the thrill of having patients walking through our doors. Hearing babies cry, hearing people talking. The Shammah Health Center is ALIVE, people! Glory and thanks be to God!

This day belongs to each and every one of you, for all of the support, kindness and love you’ve shown us. It also belongs to all of the incredible and amazing Burundi Youth for Christ staff that have worked alongside us, who have been working long before we ever got here, and will continue to work long after we leave. Our center also have the best staff ever! A team full of life, who treat our patients with respect and dignity.

We had three patients who could only afford to pay a portion of their bills, each one a situation where treatment was desperately needed. So, we agreed to provide the care in the hope that the patients will eventually return to pay their debt. We’ll see how that goes as time moves on.

First ever blood smear for a malaria
test. It was positive!
It was incredible to see the systems, planning and training we’ve been working so hard on the past year pay off. We had great patient flow, the pharmacy my incredible wife organized worked like a charm, and we didn’t have a single hiccup the entire day.

I just need to say that I love my wife. She worked so hard, and what I view as a ridiculous obsession with organization and tidiness in our home, is exactly what I love about her work in the center. So much of what worked today was a result of her diligence, planning and thoughtfulness.

So, what does day two look like? Who knows!!!!! The one thing that comforts me so much in a time like this, is the fact that God knows. I’ve been wondering about, and praying for the first patient we’d ever treat at the health center for over three years now, since February 2011. Turns out it was little Teddy, but God has known that forever. He knows who we’ll see tomorrow, and the day after that as well. He’s planned it all for the ultimate good. He’s opened these doors, and He made Day One a story of success and encouragement.

He saved lives today. Pretty cool stuff.

You can read the original article and more of Josh and Nadine's writing on their Blog

Thursday, 6 March 2014

New Shammah Staff!

After two rounds of interviews, we can now introduce you to the new staff at Shammah Health Center!

There were a few frustrations and delays in the process, which means that the clinic still isn’t quite open, as we’d hoped by now. But we believe that the extra time has allowed God to put together an incredible team of people, representing five different nations, all passionate about reaching out to the Burundian community with God’s love and quality healthcare.

We have Joshua and Nadine Guenther, (Executive Director and Medical Director of Shammah Health Center.) Josh and Nadine are both nurses from Canada, and have been in Burundi for just over a year, doing an amazing job to get the centre open. They will be working as nurses whilst managing the centre, and their plan is to slowly hand over responsibility to local staff over the next couple of years.
We are incredibly lucky to have them!

We have Zenon, our physician. A Burundian, he has extensive experience working with NGO health organizations, and Josh and Nadine actually first met him last summer in Uganda at the health workshop they attended there. Zenon has the personal experience working with the Ministry of Health that we desperately need, and he’s got a community health background and has a huge passion for growth and development.

We have Matabishi, our lab-technician. He is Congolese, married to a Burundian, and we were extremely happy to reunite him with his pregnant wife here in Gitega. Matabishi previously had a job working in the south of Burundi, work that separated him from his child and expectant wife. He has a great sense of humour, and is probably one of the most experienced and well-educated medical lab techs in the country! We are incredibly blessed to have him on board.

We have Vumilia, our chief cleaner. She was previously unemployed, trying to get together anything she could to support her three children. She is Tanzanian, married to a Burundian that she met working several years at a Burundian refugee camp across the Tanzanian border. A nursing assistant, she is experienced with healthcare and education, and has an extensive background in maternity. Her primary role will be cleanliness and hygiene supervision, health teaching and assisting with births.

We have Grace, a YFC volunteer from Uganda. Grace was trained in Public Health, but has spent the last year and a half working in different departments within Burundi YFC. Her language skills make her incredibly useful as a translator, and she’ll be helping with patient care and education programmes.

The current plan is to open Shammah Health Center’s doors to the public on Monday 10th March 2014.
This will be followed by an official opening ceremony on Saturday 5th April.

A huge thank you to everyone who has travelled with us on this journey to get the centre open. Please keep us in your prayers over the next few weeks:
  • Please pray for all the staff as they learn to work together as a team, and get used to how things will be run in this new clinic.
  • Please pray with us that there will be no more delays, and we can open as planned.
  • Please pray with us as we continue to look for funding to supply the clinic with a sustainable and self-contained solar power system

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Secret Servants

Students at GIA have been studying the book of James in their Bible classes. Inspired by the section that talks about faith and works, a plan was made so that they could put their studies into action, taking part in acts of service without rewards or credit.

One Saturday morning, class 9B left the gates of GIA and climbed onto the bus. They bounced their way along the road until they reached Gitega Homes of Hope. The children were in school, in their normal Saturday study session, so the GIA students entered the compound almost unnoticed.

Once inside, they were split up into small groups and put to work sorting rice and beans for the children’s lunch.
Rice and beans in Burundi are bought in large sacks which need to be sorted and cleaned before cooking. If rice is taken from the sack and cooked straight away, you are likely to get a mouthful of dirt and gravel along with the rice. Sorting the rice and beans is just one of the many time-consuming and thankless tasks that the House Mothers and helpers do everyday to provide food for the children. This day they had the rare treat of a morning off, whilst the GIA students did the work for them.
Once the rice and beans were sorted, the students cleaned the houses and performed a variety of other household tasks before the children returned from school.
Once finished, the students returned to GIA, excited and enthusiastic about their adventure, having learned for themselves the rewards that come from serving others, with no expectation of credit or payment.

 "Religion that pleases the Father must be pure and spotless. You must help needy orphans and widows and not let this world make you evil."
- James 1:27 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Cibitoke bakery, and steps towards sustainability...

Standing in the simple doorway, the first thing that hits me is the wonderful smell of baking bread. I stand still for a moment and breathe in deeply, even from this distance I can feel the incredible heat coming from the ovens which take up the majority of the room. The remaining space is occupied by various workers. One is carefully arranging the uncooked dough loaves into lines on flat baking trays, his fingers sprinkling fine flour dust into the air. Another is braving the heat of the oven, removing the cooked bread and placing the new loaves in the oven as part of an efficient production line.
In another corner, a man stands stirring a huge pan of hot oil over a flame, where hundreds of ibitumbura (fried balls of dough, local doughnuts) are bobbing about and sizzling a golden brown.

The bakery is an exciting hive of industry, and it’s even more exciting to see how the children in the Homes of Hope and the Future Hope School in Cibitoke have benefited from the addition of bread to their diets. We have a similar bakery in Gitega, which has also made a huge difference. Children who used to come to school hungry, now get fed mid-morning, and their grades have improved now that they are not studying on an empty stomach.
Even better, surplus bread and ibitumbura are sold in Cibitoke town and generate an income to support the projects. It’s a win-win holistic mission. We’re providing skills-training and a livelihood for those working in the bakery, we’re providing food for the children in our care, and we’re taking steps towards sustainability from the income we generate in town.

Full self-sustainability is still a long way off, but this is a very encouraging step in the right direction.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Christmas Celebrations

As the bus pulled up outside the beach resort, the doors opened to allow a rolling mass of overexcited children tumble over each other in their haste to get out and look around. The two hour journey from Cibitoke to Bujumbura had been mostly uneventful, and now the children were eager to see the lake they had heard so much about.
As we walked through the resort towards the beach, the sun shining down brightly, it was great to see the children's expressions as they finally caught sight of the huge stretch of water, many of them for the first time.

The children had a lot of fun running around on the sand, playing with the balls and bats we had brought with us, and then taking turns on the slides and swings. Just before lunch, we let them go in the water, their laughter contagious as they splashed around in the shallows. It was hilarious watching the difference between some of the younger children who ran backwards away from the waves in fear, and some of the older children who plunged into the water fully clothed, loving the feel of the cool water in the hot sun.

For lunch, we sat the children down and gave them a packed meal of delicious food with Fantas as a special treat. All the children and House mothers had a great time, and the children will be talking about their special day at the beach for a long time to come.

A few days after Christmas, Gitega Homes of Hope had their Christmas celebration. They decided to stay local, and took all the children to the beautiful green lawns of a friendly nearby hotel. At first the children enjoyed playing freely, some on the swings, others with the footballs, hula hoops and a giant inflatable beach ball.

A little while later, many games and competitions were arranged for the children, including egg and spoon races, relay races, balancing baskets on their heads, and a sack race. All the children enjoyed cheering each other on, and everyone laughed when the adults joined in too.

The children had a special packed lunch with lots of treats, and they all got balloons to play with. On the way home, we stopped off at the Big Tree in Gitega, the tree that marks the centre of Gitega, the centre of Burundi, and some would say, the centre of Africa.
The kids had a wonderful time, and it was a great opportunity for the new arrivals at Homes of Hope to join in a special event with their new families.