On Sunday, the Missional Millers visited the Village Health Works (VHW) project in Kigutu, Burundi. It is a 1.5 hour drive south
from Bujumbura along the lake before driving up into the mountains. Even though the day was overcast and the views were hazy, we were still treated to some amazing vistas down into lush green valleys from the climbing mountain road. Although we do not have any affiliation with Village Health Works, we were excited to see how they are improving health care for rural Burundians, many of whom have been repatriated from Tanzanian refugee camps in recent years.
Our host for the day was Deogratias Niyizonkiza. Deo’s amazing story was told in the bestselling Strength In What Remains. We joined our friends, Steven and Laura (and their three children), to tour the VHW campus and meet some of the other staff and community members. If you would like a very readable story that incorporates a lot of Burundian history, we recommend this book to you.
Village Health Works is involved in a variety of community-based and community-run projects. These include food co-ops that are incorporating new ways of farming and raising animals to prevent many of the diseases caused or worsened by malnutrition. While we were there, one co-op group was rewarded for winning a competition among the many different co-ops. Their prize? 100 chickens! Other issues that are being addressed include gender-based violence, HIV projects, education, and acute medical care. Both inpatients and outpatients are seen in Kigutu and plans are underway for a comprehensive Women’s Health Center.
We are glad for the investment that Village Health Works is making in Burundi. We are hopeful that we can collaborate in the future to see medical student education improve, medical research advance, and patient outcomes improve.
Collaborating for Burundi
These sorts of networking and collaborating opportunities are one of the fringe benefits of our presence here. In traditional African cultures, individuals and organizations are hesitant to share their knowledge or connections with each other. We hope to demonstrate that by working together, we can all benefit and not leave anyone behind. As the oft-quoted African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”