Director’s Blog: What we can learn from the elephants

Recently I read an article on the BBC News website about a research team that monitored the reactions of herds of African elephants when they heard the sound of lions roaring. The report stated that “Groups of animals with older female leaders, or matriarchs, very quickly organised themselves into a defensive “bunch” when they heard a male lion.”

According to the study, matriarchs can differentiate between the roar of the male

lion and the female. According to Dr. McComb, it is the male lion that poses the greatest threat to elephants. He says, “[Male lions] can be successful in bringing down a calf even when alone. Female lions are unlikely to attack unless they are in a large group.”

The study also shows that younger female elephants do not react the same as the older matriarchs. Dr. McCombs explains the strange finding. He says, “We think it’s because they hadn’t had sufficient exposure to that threat; lions don’t [attack elephants] that often.” However with years of experience the mature female elephants were learned to distinguish the roar of the male lions from the female, even though according to Dr. McComb “The differences are very subtle, it’s very difficult for us to tell them apart.” However, for the sake of the herd these female elephants learned to distinguish the roars.

At the end of the article Dr. McComb added that the study had demonstrated the need to conserve and protect these older animals. “These older individuals clearly have a vital role in how well elephants function in their social groups,” He says.

The Village of Hope has long known the value of mature women when it comes to the care of Africa’s vulnerable children. Placing orphans in a home setting with a house mother is something we have been doing from the beginning. Experienced mothers know the dangers the children face. They are able to sense real danger and gather her chicks under her protective wings. Vulnerable children face many dangers and it takes a well experienced mother to sense the danger and warn the child. We have among our house mothers those that are young and with limited experience, but they learn from the more senior and experienced house mothers. We also invest in training programs for the mothers. It is not long until they learn to

House Mothers from VOH-Kitwe

sense where the real danger to their children comes from.

So just like the mature matriarchs of the elephant herds, the house mothers of Village of Hope play a vital role in the well being of the children we care for. We are grateful for the many dedicated women who care for the children we care for at our

various villages.

Until next time,

Sergio Bersaglio

Executive Director – Villages of Hope-Africa

Link to the story on BBC:


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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.