Young people leading the way in Burundi

At a gathering of people in mission from Church Mission Society and CMS-Africa in the autumn, Nicole Stephens (key relationships officer) heard about young people bringing change in Burundi.

“In Burundi young people face many challenges,” says Rev Salvator Nkorerimana, a CMS local partner (pictured above) and the country coordinator for CMS-Africa’s work in Burundi.

Serving as a priest in Matana Diocese, Salvator is burdened by the apparent lack of opportunities and the untapped potential of the many young people in his parish, yet he is excited by what God is doing through the delivery of CMS-Africa’s youth discipleship training, known as 3D.

The focus of 3D is to help young people discover their talents, develop those talents and deploy them for the benefit of their community and church as well as themselves.

Rooted in finding identity in Christ, the training aims to combat the helplessness that young people feel.

Salvator is passionate about seeing youth grasp the message, “You are able to do something, even if you are not employed, because of who and whose you are.”

When Salvator first introduced 3D in 2016, the training was advertised in different churches and denominations across Matana Diocese, because, “poverty is not for this church or that one… we need to show people that God is not for this church or that one, but for all churches.” Salvator says the youth responded en masse, with 300 young people taking part in the six-month programme.

Entrepreneurial spirit

After completing 3D, young people in the diocese came together to discuss what they could do in view of the lack of jobs and opportunities. They formed an association, ADIPIC (Association for Integral Development and the Promotion of Community Initiatives), and decided to have a go at various income-generating activities. First they undertook soap-making.

In need of start-up capital for the business, ADIPIC members decided not to go to the bank for credit, but, inspired by the teachings of 3D, said, “Let’s use first what we have.” Over the next two months, each member of ADIPIC contributed 1,000 Burundian francs towards the project, giving them a total of 600,000 Burundian francs. This was enough to buy a machine to make soap and to give a foundation to their activities.

A young man rotates the handle of a churning machine, while others look on
In the mix: young people from Matana Diocese demonstrate their soap-making project to CMS-Africa staff

ADIPIC is organised into nine groups, and each group took the homemade soap products to sell in their different networks.

As they began to see money come in, Salvator says the young people of ADIPIC reacted by saying: “Wow, we can get a profit. Let’s begin another activity.” Energised to add further income-generating activities to their efforts, some started small businesses in local markets, others produced sanitary towels and still others worked on producing school chalk.

For the local community, the impact of releasing the creativity and God-given potential of the youth has been tangible.

Where previously local schools would have had to go to the capital, Bujumbura, to buy chalk, they can now buy it from former students, “Made in Matana”. The local hospital has asked for training in making sanitary towels and the local senator has invested in the work of ADIPIC by contributing six-months’ rent for the property they use as a base.

Church beyond Sundays

3D training has not only helped the young people financially but also changed their perception of church as having relevance beyond Sunday – as much on Monday in the marketplace as in the Sunday service.

Emima is one young lady who had fallen away from church because of negative reactions to her riding a bicycle and playing football as a woman. She hadn’t passed her exams to be able to go to university and so was at home with no sense of a future.

That’s when Salvator met her and invited her to 3D training, where she was encouraged in the talents that God has given her.

Salvator also invited her to his church; there she found a community that supported her and even organised a space for her to start her own business, making and selling a variety of products.

Gradually, Emima was able to earn enough to resit her exams, which she passed! She is now at university in Bujumbura, in her second year studying economics, and is involved in a church there.

Men sit atop unfinished ground floor  walls, with scaffolding made from long uneven timbers
Building a church, building up people: some of Burundi’s young entrepreneurs help construct a new church building in Mahwa

Another young lady found herself rejected by her family following a sexual assault while at school. She was left with a young baby to care for and little means of finding the necessary support.

Encouraged by Salvator to attend 3D training, she was supported through her difficult circumstances and empowered to use her talents for good. She started a small business in the market selling fruit and vegetables, and began earning enough to provide for herself and her child.

Unfortunately, last January a fire broke out at Matana market which destroyed many businesses, including hers.

Through ADIPIC, she has found fellowship and a supportive community. The association has been able to rally around her and support her with a small loan to help restart her business.

Salvator says that this young woman has started coming to church because, “the challenges she is passing through have pushed her also to approach God… I thank God, because it can be the window to give her the strength. We are praying for her.”

Building the church, one brick at a time…

One of Salvator’s ambitions since arriving at Mahwa parish has been to have a church building large enough for everyone to meet in. The church currently meets in a school classroom, and for a number of years has been overflowing with people having to listen from outside.

Two men mix sand
Young people made 40,000 bricks for this new church building using local resources

Unexpectedly, the young people of Mahwa have been contributors to work on a new church building. Encouraged that they have gifts and resources to contribute, they told Salvator, “We can bring stones, even make bricks.”

Using local resources they made a total of 40,000 bricks, which has been enough to lay the foundations and begin constructing the walls of the much-needed church building. Others brought beans that they had harvested, which were sold to buy cement.

The building of this church stands as a physical representation to the community of the power of the 3D training, and of individuals having their mindsets renewed by faith in a good God. Salvator is excited for the finishing of this building, praying that he will soon be celebrating with his congregation inside.

As country coordinator for Burundi, Salvator plans to extend CMS-Africa programmes across the country’s nine dioceses.

“I have decided to not go too quickly,” he says. “I have asked the bishops to give me a person in mission in each diocese as a contact. That way we can plan the activity for each year together.

“My vision is to finish getting the training materials translated into Kirundi, to train more trainers and to extend the programmes across the dioceses.”

The Call in Action: LEARN

Find out more about local partners like Salvator:

Published 7 February 2020

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