BURUNDI/ (AVSI) The Story of Elie
There are stories that deserve to be written. Like the story of Elie, a boy from Bujumbura, Burundi, who no one would ever know about if it were not for an unexpected encounter that changed his life. But let's take a step back.
Burundi is a wonderful country and a complicated one at the same time. AVSI started to work on site there in 2001 along with CBAU (Biellan Community Humanitarian Aid), at the MEO Center. The center can accommodate up to 500 orphans from the capital and is in very poor district of Cibitoke. There, children are struggling to stay in school because of the high fees which their parents cannot afford and often the food they eat is not adequate for their growth and poverty is a given.
Elie Fernich Ngerageze grew up in this context. In 2003, with support from a distance, he was able to attend school and could buy his books and materials. In the meantime, AVSI expanded its work by starting small income generating activities for the parents and began to operate in the province of Kayanza as well, in 2005. Elie continued to study. In 2010 he graduated in modern literature. He was one of the best in his class, and passed the state exam for university entrance. This is when something happened.
He told the story in a beautiful letter: "The State told me I had to enroll in the department of English and Kirundi (the local language, ed), so that I could become a professor of those two courses in the future. But this had nothing to do with my desire to become a major promoter of international economic and social development for my country”. Elie asked to be admitted into Economics, but it did not happen. He was discouraged, but did not want to join a department that was not for him. Meanwhile, he asking AVSI if he could work as a volunteer at the Center for MEO. "I’ve been working there since January. Little by little I discovered that this work was in line with my desire to become a promoter of economic and social development because here we are at the service of children in need who deserve an educational intervention, both psychological and social, to have a better future".
He continues: "I want to work with young people and that's exactly what I do here at the Center. I feel very much inclined toward children and adolescents. [...] Working with them, making them aware of their value, encouraging them and equipping them mentally for their future and for the future of my country, is a passion for me and a joy. I cannot describe how I feel when I work with them; I am full of joy in my heart. I thank God for this much". This does not lessen his desire to enroll in a university, Elie says straight out, but it has made the road that God has set out for him available to him, and helped him discover a good for himself and for others.
"I have been supported by AVSI since 2003, and, after 8 years, I am now helping others. [...] Going to the university remains a great desire for me, even though today it is a bit difficult. God will always be with me, I'm sure".
(translation by Maria Bond)