98% of the people who are going to read this probably know me as “Mister Burundi” or “KRis/Chris the blogger”. Some would even call me an “activist”, a title I’m not quite comfortable with. Very few know that there is something I actually I enjoy more than writing and sharing stories: …my job!
What do you do, you ask?
In 2011, my mum, some cousins and I started a non-profit organization called Sacodé. We’re engaged in community health and development in Burundi, and we work especially with women and the youth. During the organization’s first few years, I worked in the background; but in 2015, I decided to quit my high-pay-trips-abroad-permanent-contract job at the Revenue Authority/OBR (a decision many still call “foolish”) and dedicate all my resources to the work we do at Sacodé. I’ve never made a better decision in my life! It came with its own set of challenges, but what really comes easy in life?
I love this job because it takes me beyond just complaining about the problems in Burundi to taking concrete steps towards actually fixing some of them! I know this sounds cliché, but as I write, the lives of 16,856 women and youth in Burundi have changed or have a better chance of changing for the better, thanks to the work we do. Among them are schoolgirls and female high school students whose school attendance and performance have significantly improved, thanks to a product we developed specifically for them, but which can also benefit millions of other girls and women in Burundi. Details are in the 5 minutes long video below.
A few weeks ago I returned home from what I call an “academic world tour” that lasted about three months. Well, it was really just a trip that took me to South Australia for two months and South Africa for about a month, through Dubai International airport. It was fun, stressful (the academic part), and well, educative. I got to chill with kangaroos, hike the cliffs of the Cape of Good Hope, and return home with two certificates. I’d say it wasn’t bad. 🙂
The highlight of my trip however has to be the people who contributed to make the trip amazing: from the 20 other Africans (from 10 different countries) I spent the three months with, to the academic staff, and the Burundians I met in the different cities I visited. If you are one of these people and you are reading this, I just want you to know that you are awesome! I am happy to call you friend. 🙂
And I’m not even mentioning how awesome the people of Australia are. I’ve seriously never met nicer ‘white people’ (generally speaking) in any of the places I’ve been (white South Africans are actually quite snob). I used to hear people complain about Australians being racist, but I guess I only went to the places with the good people? Seriously.
As I saw #KenyaAt50 tweets fill up my Twitter timeline yesterday, I found myself thinking how interesting it is that people who weren’t united before colonisation can celebrate independence together… What I mean is, today’s Kenya is somewhat a creation of the British coloniser, as they were the ones who drew the borders of the country we know. (The other day I read an article about how the British bargained – with the Germans who controlled Tanganyika – Zanzibar, in exchange for the Kilimanjaro, and found it funny how both now are Tanzanian territory). The drawing of borders by the Western powers isn’t something that only happened to Kenya: most African countries as we know them today were marked out by the “white man” who in most places did so by bringing previously independent territories under one single rule. A few exceptions exist however: one of them is Burundi [and Rwanda to some extent, considering that a lot of its historical territory – I hear – went to neighbouring Uganda and DRC.]
These two girls finally decided to go their separate ways
I have a friend who has invested in a certain kind of business. He was telling me yesterday how he hates it when family or close friends request his services, as they never pay him or they pay really late. Therefore, whenever they come to him he will pretend that he doesn’t have what they need, and connect them to “another” provider through which he’ll discretely serve them and get his money. Smart move; and I encouraged him to keep doing that for as long as his people’s mind-set hasn’t changed!
My buddy isn’t the first person I hear complaining of the sort! I’ve heard a lot of people complain that when you have a business in Burundi, your relatives start behaving as if they are “entitled” to get things from you for free; or on never-ending credit! Hell no! Wait, it even goes beyond the business spectre… as you start to progress in life, people you didn’t even know about will start showing up claiming to be incuti – eti they are the cousins-of-the-aunt-of-your-grandfathers-sister-in-law, Hein?! They’ll come and they’ll try to suck every single penny out of you; like WT*?!