The journey to start Village of Hope – Burundi began in 2001. The pastor of my church announced that he would be taking a team to Uganda to build a house at an orphanage there. In February 2002 I went to Uganda and had my first experience with real poverty in a third world country; I spent two weeks in Uganda and that was all it took to revolutionize the direction and focus of my life. I had never realized how fortunate I was to have been born in a country like Canada until this trip pointed it out to me and because of this, I decided I wanted to do whatever I could to help those less fortunate than myself. I met Sergio and Nancy Bersaglio during this trip to Uganda, they were on holiday there, and they told me about Village of Hope – this was the start of what would become a long-term relationship with both them and Villages of Hope.
When I returned home I drove my wife and daughter nuts; I wanted to give all our excess possessions away. I kept telling them that they had too many clothes – tact has never been my forte. I am sure they got very tired of listening to me.
In October 2003, I went back to Uganda to build another house at the orphanage I had visited in 2002. This time I lead the team, and my wife and daughter came with me. It did not take long for them to begin to understand why I had behaved the way I did after my first trip to Africa.
After this second trip, I started thinking to myself, “Hey, I can do something like that. I can start an orphanage that will make a difference in a few lives.” It is interesting how the timing of things work because in 2004, Manitoba, my home province, began to receive a large number of African refugees and I became connected with some of these refugees. We knew that life in Canada was a huge change for them (climate, school, work, driving, language, etc.) and so my wife and I began to help them assimilate into Canadian culture. The first refugees came from Sudan, then immigration started to shift and we met some who came from Congo, and then Rwanda and Burundi. It was a Rwandan man who brought me to Burundi.
My first trip to Burundi was in 2007. The Rwandan man that brought me there had some connections and through those connections I was able to meet the president and I told him about my plans to begin an orphanage in Burundi and he was appreciative and supportive. This let me know that a village of hope would be warmly welcomed.
I also met a man named Delson Niyimpaye who had the same vision and goals as I did. I spent three years building a relationship with Delson and he has become a close friend who is also committed to helping the people in Burundi. I also reconnected with Sergio Bersaglio and asked him to consider bringing Village of Hope Africa to a new country: Burundi. In August 2009, Sergio requested that Delson come to Zambia and visit the Village of Hope in Kitwe (the original village). Once Sergio met Delson, he became confident that starting a Village of Hope in Burundi was possible.
In October 2009, Sergio travelled to Burundi where he met with Delson and me. We made the plans and laid the ground work to begin looking after children in Bujumbura, Burundi. We went through a selection process and found 43 children in great need. And in January 2010, Village of Hope– Burundi was born.
Presently, Village of Hope – Burundi provides school supplies, uniforms, and tuition to the children of the Village of Hope and also covers medical expenses and many other miscellaneous needs of the children. Also, through a feeding program started in 2010, we feed children breakfast on their way to school. We also rented a house that, by the end of this year, is planned to have six children living in it along with a house mother.
Future plans include building a school that will provide an education for an even greater number of children.
I do not know where this will all lead, what I do know is that I am committed to
pressing forward and providing as much as I possibly can for the widows and orphans of Burundi. God has provided so much and I know He will continue to provide. It’s been an interesting & exciting journey so far and I know it will continue to be!
By Dennis Wiebe – Canadian Representative for VOH-Burundi