The Batwa Project

Trip Start Jun 27, 2008
Trip End Apr 01, 2009

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Flag of Burundi  ,
Monday, July 7, 2008

One of the projects with which I'll be helping during my time in Burundi deals with the Batwa people.  The Batwa are the minority group in the country, after the Tutsis and Hutus, and are severely mistreated.  Nearly all of them live in abject poverty in homes made of mud, grass, or palm fronds.  It isn't uncommon for them to go for two or three days at a time without food. 
Now the good part.  Amahoro Africa is working with other groups, especially Uniproba, to improve conditions for the Batwa in several ways.  The part that I get to help with for now has to do with education.  Because fellow students and even teachers ridicule them at school, making them sit crowded together in the backs of classrooms, refusing to make friends with them, and pointing out their lack of good food to eat or nice clothes to wear, most Batwa children  never go on to high school, if they even finish primary school at all.  Only 3 Batwa have graduated from university in all of Burundi's history, and there are 3 more in college right now.  What I'll be doing to try to help the situation is to get to know some of the Batwa and record their stories.  We'll be sending the stories to different churches and groups in the U.S. to help raise money to sponsor at least 40 Batwa high school students so that they will have a greater chance of finishing high school without dropping out and then can go on to be leaders in society and help make permanent change for their people.  The money will go to rent a few small houses or apartments where the students will live together and have regular meals to eat, water to bathe and wash clothes so they won't be made fun of for being dirty at school, and electricity so they have light to study by at night.  Eventually, the group would like to raise enough money to build boarding schools within Batwa communities (there are no schools within their communities right now).
I've gotten to do interviews with one university student, Evariste, and one Senator, Bayaga, and I had the privilege of visiting a Batwa village in Bubanza, about 40 minutes to the north of Bujumbura, where my group was greeted with about 20 minutes of dancing and singing. The most fun part for me was taking pictures of the children with my digital camera and then showing them what they looked like. They would all gather around and giggle and then get together more children so I could do it again with a bigger group.  As you can see from the pictures, in spite of living in conditions worse than many of our pets in the U.S. do, they still have joy and love to smile.  
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