Home-Start, Burundi

By Leana Gjertsen, Burundi


I had served people as a volunteer in different countries like Rwanda, Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia and had a longing to continue offering my services to people for an organisation that could serve children’s best interests through supporting their families. But I knew very little about why volunteers would be needed in western countries. For what kind of needs I wondered?

The next day I headed to their office to inquire about Home-Start and volunteering for them. Two Co-ordinators received me and explained more about Home-Start. I was impressed and expressed my wish to volunteer. I was trained as a volunteer and then I was matched with a young family to whom I offered my services. From being with this family I gained a new perspective about families and their needs.

What inspired me to start Home-Start in Burundi?

The idea to start Home-Start in Burundi came a short time after I had been a Home-Start family volunteer in my local community in Norway. I was inspired by the Home-Start way of serving a family’s needs and also by my new way of understanding family and family needs. During my short time as a family volunteer, I discovered that Home-Start was the right organisation for me.

Then I told myself that if Home-Start services to the family matter in Norway then how much more they would matter for families in Burundi, my homeland? If Home-Start is needed in Western countries, then how much more would it be needed on the African continent?

In November 2016, I wrote to Home-Start Worldwide and expressed my wish to start a Home-Start in Burundi. Home-Start Worldwide did some research into my idea to start a Home-Start and then began the process of supporting me in the development of Home-Start in Burundi.

Since I had no experience about the steps to take, I was matched with a Home-Start Worldwide trustee, Anne Hart from South Africa. Anne Hart is one of the trustees with some experience of the processes related to starting up and developing Home-Start schemes in new countries so she guided me all the way from writing a business plan to the last piece of paper work. She was always there for me when I needed her in my effort.

After I finalized the business plan, I contacted a man I knew in Burundi and introduced him to the Home-Start idea and my plan. I asked this man if he knew other men and women who would like the idea. He said he could pass the idea on to some of his social networks. I gave him the Home-Start Worldwide home page address so he could read more about the organisation. After one week, he found 12 more people who were interested in Home-Start. We then formed a group of interested people and started meeting online since I was living abroad. We discussed Home-Start and how it would benefit families in Burundi and the Burundian society. Out of that group we elected people who formed a management committee and then hired a local lawyer to guide us in developing a constitution for the association and other official papers that we needed to submit to the local authorities in Burundi in order to apply for official status for our association.

In June 2017 Home-Start Giriwanyu was officially born - it received its national agreement! We started 2 Home-Start schemes in the two provinces we had assessed as being where the most vulnerable families lived. We wrote letters to the administrators of the local communities and the country leaders to introduce Home-Start Giriwanyu and told them about our objectives. We asked them to assist us in any way they could in order for us to assess the needs of their communities. These authorities helped us by forwarding information about us to the local families. They also helped by providing us with the official documents that we needed to carry with us to show the authorities in those communities.

After the needs assessment we organised donations in kind for some of the families who were in greater need. This aid included hygiene items, raw food products and children’s toys.

For the Christmas celebration, we organised a festival for the families. We arranged food, drinks, songs and dance for the children and all the members of Home-Start Giriwanyu and the families had an enjoyable time together. Some representatives of the local and regional authorities were also invited and enjoyed the day with us.

The role of Home-Start Worldwide in developing Home-Start Giriwanyu

In September 2017 arrangements were made to train our first co-ordinator so that he could professionally coordinate the services to families in Burundi. Home-Start South Africa offered to train him in South Africa. The organisation of the training was a collaborative effort by Home-Start Worldwide and Home-Start South Africa who shared the expenses of the training and the 5 day trip.

In November 2017, Home-Start Worldwide started an online fundraising campaign to help Home-Start Giriwanyu run their first Course of Preparation for volunteers. The money raised during the campaign enabled us to train our first 15 volunteers who are now ready to support families.

Many thanks to everyone who is supporting us in our effort to support vulnerable young families in Burundi. Special thanks to our Co-ordinator for serving the Schemes as a volunteer up until now.

Leana Gjertsen, Home-Start Burundi Chair, March 2018