Meet Suzanne Pesak. She is a Dutch woman living here in Burundi with her family. She approached me this past spring with an idea. Suzanne had visited a hospital in Bujumbura and was concerned by the lack of basic care the patients received. Many people can barely pay their doctor bill which leaves no money left for medicines or food. Hospitals in this part of the world do not provide meals for their patients who stay overnight. It is expected that each patient will have a caretaker to bring them food and do their laundry.
Suzanne knew that she had many connections with people who would be eager to fund a program that would assist Burundians on such a basic level. So with a grant from Heineken, she created a fund raising campaign called TENFOLD to “pocket change the world.” Websites should be running in mid December. Presently she is focused on developing a feeding program that could be easily reproducible in any hospital.
I introduced Suzanne to Busoma (Burundi Sorghum Soybeans Maize). Busoma is a porridge that is produced on the Kibuye Hope Hospital campus by our Free Methodist Church to help combat malnutrition in children. It is also the main breakfast food served on Hope Africa University’s campus to the resident students. It has been analyzed here and is known to contain 14% proteins and 6% fats. The brown thick liquid isn’t fancy, but with sugar and oil added in, the taste tests are coming back very positively with every mug empty.
Suzanne and I agreed that the pilot program should take place at Hope Africa’s Clinic Van Norman. The openness of the staff to accommodate such a new idea, as well as the freedom we would have to move through the clinic, converse with patients and staff, and collect data can not be expected at a government hospital. In addition, our ability to control for other factors (such as knowing which are patients and which are not, identifying if porridge is disappearing, and collecting the mugs at the end of the day) is making this pilot program a successful and joyful endeavor.
We are one week into this project and there is still work to be done to make it run smoothly and cost effectively. Next week we will begin collecting data as we seek to prove the benefits of this program. But the smiles on the faces of patients and their caretakers, the positive responses of staff and visitors, and the knowledge we have of patients with full tummies encourages us that we are on the right path.