The story so far

August 2005

Luc Torrini, a teacher of religious studies and leader of the UJEB youth group in Brussels, returned to Belgium after his second visit to Burundi. Faced with such immense human distress, he couldn’t just resume normal activities without doing something for the Burundian people. So he organised a brain-storming session with friends. Ideas began to flow: “we must help the children, provide them with schooling, health care, food, access to a profession..; after such a terrible war, why not build a community centre to bring people together? … ”

One proposal clearly emerged from these discussions: the project should be a village named “Imuhira”, which means “at home” in Kirundi. After seeing their families literally torn apart by indescribable massacres, children desperately needed to rebuild their lives and feel … at home.

The dream was ambitious, slightly crazy, but the founders were convinced that if the cause was just, funds and resources would be forthcoming. On an administrative level, they joined forces with the SEL Projets organisation in Belgium and a Burundian ONG, the ADEPE. (Who?)

January 2006

The project received an unexpected boost when the Muramvya provincial authorities donated a plot of 3.5 hectares for the purpose of building a primary school. Plans for the site were drawn up in Belgium, and a fundraising campaign was launched with the first “Live for Africa” concerts organised by the UJEB youth group.

The foundation stone was laid in June 2006 during a ceremony attended by the Provincial Governor. In August, the Burundian President visited a site bustling with activity. After just five months, in November 2006, 400 children were seated behind desks in six brand new classrooms!

Few years later …

Since its spectacular beginnings, the project has not stopped progressing. Here’s a summary of achievements so far:

  • the construction of a primary school with more than 600 pupils;
  • a canteen providing a daily nutritive meal to all the pupils, with the parents involved in its day-to-day running;
  • the creation of literacy training centres throughout the region, enabling over 1300 adults to obtain their national literacy certificate; the graduates take part in revenue creation programmes under the auspices of local peasants’ associations;
  • the creation of medical and social counselling centres in seven different schools, offering health awareness training, preventative care and aid to those most vulnerable;
  • the launching of an ambitious farming and beekeeping project, subsidised by the Belgian Embassy in Bujumbura; the farm was inaugurated by H.R.H. Prince Philippe and H.R.H. Princesse Mathilde on July 3rd 2012;
  • the construction of a technical school providing courses in carpentry and masonry – a potential source of revenue for the project in the future;
  • the high voltage electrification of the site by Energy Assistance, humanitarian branch of the electricity supplier GDF-Suez;
  • the installation of water points serving the school and the neighbouring population…

The project has moved on since the first brainstorming session, but its heart has remained the same. A population in distress has found its dignity and is beginning to take hold of its own future. All this is thanks to the enthusiasm and generosity of all who believe that, together, we can make a difference.

Dutch, French

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