Thoughts and Struggles from Burundi

On Tuesday, I traveled to a rural area of Burundi to conduct another focus group with a Belgian organization called Village Imuhira. They work in education and community development in one part of rural Burundi.  As we drove to the village, my thoughts turned towards the value of human life.  Our driver was going ridiculously fast, weaving through traffic, and barely missing cyclists carrying huge loads of bananas and charcoal.  After 3 months in Africa I’m used to crazy driving, but it’s made me think whether drivers really care about other people on the road.  They probably wouldn’t even face legal action for killing a poor villager.  Compare that to the States where you could go to prison for years if you killed someone for reckless driving.  There just seems to be a different perspective on the inherent value of human life here.  It reminds me of one of my favorite films, The Constant Gardner where they ask the same question: Are African lives less valuable than our own?  I even did some more research and found an articleabout lives being valued differently from a life insurance perspective in the United States.  I understand why it happens, but it’s still an interesting thought to consider.

I’ve found that one of the most exhausting and difficult things is the inability to communicate effectively.  Burundi has been challenging in that respect.  I would say my translator is learning English but definitely not fluent.  I repeatedly have to say things louder, slower, and use different words to say the same thing.  Eventually we’ll find a French cognate that he understands or something he learned in school.  It’s frustrating when you need specific information and you’re having to pry really hard to reach it.

Of course I have to remind myself that the difficulty of communication is nothing compared to the hardships these people face every single day.  Yesterday I saw a naked kid crying in the dirt with flies all over his face.  I have to admit it was uncomfortable.  I just can’t imagine being a Burundian my age, earningsomething like 2 dollars a day and looking ahead to the rest of my life.  What will it look like?  Would I be able to hope for the future?  I really believe the problem with poverty is not being poor; it’s the hopelessness that comes from having no other options.  Provide opportunity and people will endure hardship for a lifetime, even on the simple hope that their children will have a better future.

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