There is a road that connects the PM school grounds with the hospital that we walk daily. It runs a bit uphill and is rock and scree strewn with runoff ridges throughout. This year we noticed, despite being three years older, it seemed smoother and easier. When asking about this we were told it had been graded. A small but significant improvement. In our third year here we see much remaining the same and many changes. The blessing is that the changes are for the better and what has remained the same is the beauty of the country and the people. The early morning sun over the mountains burning through the light haze, the numerous songs and sounds of the birds, and the smiling greetings of all we meet on our walk around the compound have not changed.
On our walk up the road we see the familiar tukel housing of mud and thatched roof, but we also see new structures of cement and brightly painted exterior walls roofed in tin, all indications of an improving local economy. In our conversation with our hosts we find out there is now a barber shop, boowa bete (coffee house) and a beauty salon all opened in the last year or so. The children walking down the road from their mountain homes still greet us with smiles and shy use of the English, but now, rather than wearing tattered clothing they sport school uniforms of bright yellow and purple and many wear the canvas Tom’s shoes. We are told that the uniforms have reappeared due to improved annual income of the region.
On our return trip down this road from a Saturday hike in the hills, we had the good fortune to meet Deme, and Marta (co-founders of Project Mercy), their son, Lali and the Burundi Ambassador, Albert. During this impromptu roadside encounter, we are again deeply moved by the vision of improving the well-being of every soul in Yetebon and the gratitude expressed for our effort in sharing the work. It is a wonderful reminder that the price of true vision is time and committment. Small steps to a brighter future; we learn that the water project that has been underway for many ears is near completion. Within the next year due to 15 kilometers of piping, 5 pumping stations and numerous distribution sites ( all constructed by local hand labor) 30,000 people will have water within 500 meters of their home, a truly remarkable improvement considering that many families spend several hours daily just to tranport water.
Change for the better comes more slowly than we Westerners would like, but there are more signs that change is taking place. The first grade teacher’s focus this semester is teaching the children the concept of kindness and gratitude. Thursday afternoon and Friday morning we spent in distribution of Tom’s shoes. The children line up to have a good scrubbing of their feet. During the washing process, their feet are inspected for signs of a parasite. Those who are identified with this then go to one of our nurses to have it literally dug out, and then some antiseptic is applied. They then register for their new shoes. It is so heart warming that when they are finally finished with the process, with the new shoes on thier feet, many of these beautiful little ones whisper, “Thank You” to us before going back to class. Kindness and gratitude. A good lesson for first graders and a good lesson for all of us as well. What a change this could make!
Sig & Jean Ann