No One Has Died This Year – Burundi Day 2

Today we finally went to Matara. I’d been anxiously waiting for over a year to go. I have been praying for my friends and getting to know them and the work through our Communityfor Burundi Blog and from Kelley. So there was already love in my heart for the Batwa.

For those of you who do not know the work of Communityfor Burundi, I’ll explain a little of what has taken place. After Mark, Claude, Kelley, David and Sydneyann visited Bubanza that summer, their eyes were opened, they could not leave Burundi and not take some kind action after seeing what they saw. But their hearts was to do so with dignity and respect; Allowing the Batwa to better themselves, not to hand out charity.

Since then Communityfor has not only housed the 34 Batwa students allowing them to go to school (I talked about in my previous post), but they’ve also acquired land that is NOT government owned, and then loaned it to the Batwa. This is GOOD land – called Matara (which means Life). They formed a committee of Africans who chose 30 families from Bubanza and other Batwa villages and moved them onto Matara. At Matara they are to build their own permanent homes and grow crops to sell to make a living. This happened just a year ago. The land that was purchased had a good water source and the soil was fertile. The Batwa had never lived on land like this before.

Earlier this past year when Kelley posted on the blog about the land, I commented that I wondered if they actually understood or believed that this was now theirs. I tried to place myself in the Batwa’s shoes thinking how for generations they’ve been forced to live on dry, parched land, with unfertile soil, far away from anyone else…literally owning and having NOTHING. I wondered how hard it would be to convince them to work hard because this was actually THEIRS and would NOT be taken away from them. I know from my past work in other areas that after years and years and years of mistreatment and discrimination that it becomes a mind-set that’s hard to break, because once you lose hope, that’s a true poverty. Poverty of the mind I believe is the hardest to overcome.

Kelley talked to me about the ways they’ve gone about teaching them and helping them to break that mindset. That this wasn’t something given to them that was not truly theirs, but something that THEY had to work hard at and something that will be handed down for generations and generations to come.

The past year I’d heard about how hard they’ve been working and I was anticipating seeing it for myself. This day was dedicated to meeting the Batwa at Matara and seeing what they’ve accomplished in the short time they’ve been there.

So we drove out of the city through the beautiful hills. This country is gorgeous. I’ll have pics to post once I’m home. We took a left down a small road and across a bridge and saw them waiting there for us in anticipation. The women were all dressed in their beautiful colors and all standing gathered at the bottom of the hill to greet us. They were clapping and singing. As we got out of the trucks we greeted everyone with a handshake and an “Amahoro,” which means “Peace.” Their smiles were so big and an interpreter told me that the song they were singing was “The ones we love have come.” This was precious to me knowing that they already love us just as we love them.

It wasn’t very long until the dancing started. Dancing is a HUGE part of Batwa culture, and they dance a lot! :) So we watched them dance, but it wasn’t long until we were dancing and celebrating with them. I danced with tears in my eyes overwhelmed with such joy to be here with more of my family.

After this we were introduced to “little Claude.” Little Claude is an agricultural engineer. He has been working with “Big Claude,” and the Batwa at Matara to cultivate the land. You really wouldn’t believe how much they have done. The hillsides are covered in crops; Beautiful green crops, something completely different from what we saw in Bubanza. Even the Batwa here at Matara look so completely different. Their faces are filled out and their skin has a nice texture to it, they are healthy.

Little Claude took us around and showed us the sweet potatoes, cabbage – all the crops and explained how everything was done. He also showed us where they began making bricks to sell and told us of an upcoming new venture into soap making. They plan to harvest and sell at the market and each family has a trade to do to earn an income. It was amazing to see!

Then we climbed the hill.

There’s not much I can say about this except you’d have to experience it, but I think no one else will have to experience it again because they are building a road to the top. BUT the hill is straight UP! The Batwa love the fact that we came and climbed the hill to see “their place.” lol!

At the top of the hill we were seated in the multi-purpose room which is an open air two sided room and many of the families and their small children were there waiting on us (they are MUCH quicker climbing the hill than we are).

We were seated and were introduced to the 10 couples that would be married the next day. We presented each of the couples with new shoes, a jacket and tie for the men, and a traditional African wedding dress and sandals for the women.

The leader of the village, Francois, told us that Matara is a good land. There are schools nearby (you can actually see them from the top of the hill) and that the children are being educated. There’s also a clinic nearby. Then he said something that struck me. He said, “no one has died this year.” It just ran through my brain as he said it and I didn’t really have time to think about it then, but I’ve been thinking about it since. The morning before, we met the oldest living Batwa, he’s not very old. The life expectancy of the Batwa is around mid-40’s because of the hard lifestyle. Death is an often occurrence in their lives, more so than what we are used to because of the discrimination they’ve suffered. Terrible land where food cannot be grown, children aren’t educated and they cannot get jobs because no one would hire them, so they could not provide for their families. So being born a Batwa surely meant an early death. So by Francois saying, “no one has died this year,” he wasn’t just saying, “Oh, no one has passed away,” in a way that we would. He was saying {I think} NO ONE HAS DIED HERE! BECAUSE we have our own land, we have food, we have water, we have education, we have a source of income! No Batwa has been able to say that for generations. No one has died here. That’s a powerful statement.

6 thoughts on “No One Has Died This Year – Burundi Day 2

  1. Pingback: Hope is Sprouting Here |

  2. Pingback: "The Ones We Love Have Come" – Burundi Video |

  3. Pingback: Batwa Students |

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