The History of Village of Hope-Burundi

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.

Dennis Wiebe

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


Meet Sharline…

Sharline Mwenya started as a teacher at the community school for the Village of Hope in Kitwe, Zambia and now she is the Assistant Administrator of the whole village. This is Sharline’s story…

How did you find out about Village of Hope?

I began working at Village of Hope in Kitwe 13 years ago as a part-time teacher when the school had 43 children in attendance.  I later became a full-time teacher there and then the Deputy Head Teacher and then Head Teacher.
How has village of Hope helped you?
Village of hope has helped me pursue a course in Business Administration which has been a huge help and I am now serving as the Assistant Administrator for the whole Village of Hope in Kitwe.
On a personal level, through employment at Village of Hope I am able to rent a decent house. I used to be evicted from houses time after time because of not being able to consistently pay the rent, but for 11 years now I have lived in the same home and I can’t even remember the shame of eviction.
Through the encouragement that I have received from my friends and colleagues and the trust that the Village of Hope leadership has placed in me, I have become confident and have discovered that I am well able.
Because I have had consistent employment, my daughter is getting a good education and I believe that I am able to be a better mother because of the things that I have learned over the years through my association with Village of Hope and the many people that have come alongside to teach, share and encourage both the children and the staff.
While at Village of Hope I have discovered how to use my giftings to help others and I have learned how to be a team player.
The List is endless!
What is your Testimony?
Working at Village of Hope has helped me become a better person that i wouldn’t have become elsewhere.  The good times and the bad times have all been tools that God has used to make me a better person.  I now believe, and I shall always believe, that every human being is a Treasure in the hands of God our creator.


Meet Bertha…

Bertha is a graduate from the community school at Village of Hope – Kitwe and now she works on site as a receptionist in the office. Bertha was kind enough to answer some questions to share how she ended up at Village of Hope and how it has changed her life.

How did you find out about village of Hope?

I found out about village of hope through my friend Hazel, who was a student there at the time. She explained to me what village of Hope was all about.
I was very interested and I asked her if she could find a place in school for me. She introduced me to the principal and explained my problem of not having money to pay school fees that you have to pay at the government schools. It was not long before I was accepted , to me it was a great blessing  after having to drop out  for three years because my family didn’t have the money to pay government school fees.  I couldn’t believe that i can be learning for free , being given books, clothes and shoes for free, it was a blessing to my family and I.
How has village of Hope helped you?
Village of Hope has really helped me in many ways to be precise:  Spiritually, emotionally and physically. I am what I am today because of Village of Hope through the help that have been receiving ever since I came. They have helped  me to become an independent contributing member of the society through the youth empowerment program that, after graduating, taught me many skills such as spiritual formation , Gardening , block making , chicken raising and computer lessons.  After completing the Youth Empowerment Program Village of Hope gave me a job as receptionist and the computer skills I had learned really helped me. I thank GOD every day for blessing  me  with a good Job at this place, I am working in the office, I love my job and it is a blessing to my family.
What is your Testimony?
Life became challenging and meaningless when I lost my beloved ones. It was in the year 2007 in November on 17th, when i first lost my sister two days before her birthday.  It was very terrible for our family, we felt empty and with so much sorrow in our hearts.   Two weeks later, my mother died of depression. I was traumatized, depressed, confused and completely hopeless.
My mother was a strong woman and hard working too. She strived and sacrificed a lot for the benefit of our family.  When she died, I had to take over the responsibilities that my mother left. I am now looking after my four siblings, three girls and 1 boy.  It is not easy to manage a home when one is not ready for it. Our home is now a youth headed home, at first I  used to cry a lot when I thought about what I was going through and that I didn’t have enough knowledge on how to raise children and other related responsibilities.
It is very sad when one of my siblings falls sick. It disturbs me a lot and that’s when i think of my mother to come in and help but, its not possible, it is horrible to lose two people in the same year.
In February 2008, my sister Miriam, the third born in our family, was raped by five men when coming from kwacha compound were she went to visit my auntie. It was a painful experience that I had to go through again.  I had so much fear that may be she has been infected with H.I.V./ Aids or been impregnated.   To say the truth, I was very hopeless for I didn’t know why Satan had to continue bringing more harsh problems to my family when we still had terrible problems at hand.
God always makes a way where it seems no way.  When the people at Village of Hope heard what had happened to my sister, they arranged for her to receive medical care and counselling and today my sister is doing very well.
I thank God for blessing me with this wonderful family that I belong to at Village of Hope. On my own, I could not have pulled through but, the office staff, the house mothers and aunties have been of great help to me by encouraging me and praying for me and their prayers have changed things in my family and even the village of hope children have shown me great love through difficult times.
I thank God for Bringing me to village of hope and for blessing me with a good Job which is helping me to care for the family that I am now responsible for. My coming to village of Hope is for a purpose that God provided for me. I have found joy; and I have found a great family of mothers, and sisters and brothers here.
Indeed God has made a way for me where I thought they will be no way for me.


Director’s Blog: Turning words into action

I was in a meeting that focused on an application for a government grant. Grant applications can be complicated and time consuming. We spent most of our time on the “Logic Model,” which includes ultimate outcomes, intermediate outcomes, outputs and activities. I understand the reason why donors, especially government organizations, require organizations to go through this process and I am not opposed to them. However, that said there is need for caution for those of us who are involved in caring for the vulnerable of this world.

I came across “A Letter to a Young Activist” by Thomas Merton and it came to mind as I was working through the Logic Model.  Merton told his young friend, “Do not depend on the hope of results.  When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on… In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.”

In this day and age it is easy to get caught up in the institutional language of the NGO world; so much time and energy is spent on Vision and Mission Statements, Core Values, Codes of Conduct and so on. We spend large amounts of man-hours doing strategic planning. I am not saying these things don’t hold value, but eventually we have to move from talking about it to actually doing it.  As Thomas Merton went on to tell the young activist, “You are fed up with words, and I don’t blame you.  I am nauseated by them sometimes.  I am also, to tell you the truth, nauseated by ideals and with causes.  This sounds like heresy, but I think you will understand what I mean.  It is so easy to get engrossed with ideas and slogans and myths that in the end one is left holding the bag, empty, with no trace of meaning left in it…”

Too often organizations, under the pressure to raise the much needed resources, feel they have to create unrealistic outcomes in order to attract donors and pressure to achieve these outcomes rises. Organizations begin to lose focus and their vision becomes too broad. I am a firm believer in narrowing the focus and keeping it simple. Otherwise as Merton cautions, “we begin to build yourself an identity in your work, out of your work and witness,” and “that is not the right use of your work.”

As the Executive Director of Villages of Hope – Africa Society I am committed to keeping to our call to bring hope to children at risk. Yes I will continue to do strategic planning and yes I will complete the logic model, but I will strive to not let words but rather our actions define who we are.

“The real hope, then, is not in something we think we can do, but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see.  If we can do His will, we will be helping in this process.  But we will not necessarily know all about it beforehand . . .”

Until next time,

Sergio Bersaglio

Executive Director – Villages of Hope – Africa