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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Bujumbura Welcomes YOU!!

Between 10% and 20% of Burundi’s population lives in the sprawling lakeside city of Bujumbura. Wide avenues and palms, portside industry, gracious beaches, crumbling concrete buildings dotted with ambitiously modern ones, throngs of bicycles carrying anything from matoke to passengers, chaotic intersections, vibrant informal housing areas, a tropical sunshine and a mountainous view into Congo. Grilled fish and sweet mangoes, dust washed by afternoon downpours, a cool breeze by evening. A population which has known unspeakable trauma, wary and yet determined to emerge into the world scene. Universities, cafes, orphanages, markets, coffee roasting, artsy sewing projects. The early morning flood of villagers descending the surrounding hills on foot, carrying baskets on their heads or pushing carpentry projects on bikes, chatting with school mates or stopping to buy bread. Bright colors and matching patterns in the cloth wrapping women’s waists. Central Africa with a French touch. An international church committed to reconciliation, preaching a Gospel of peace, embracing all ethnicities.

We spent four days in the city to visit our team leaders Randy and Carolyn. They are second-career missionaries, people who left behind academically renowned and reasonably lucrative careers, a beautiful suburban home, young adult children, nearness to friends and family . . . and decided to invest their 60’s into one of the poorest countries in the world. Randy serves as the Dean of Hope Africa University’s medical school, and Carolyn teaches English. By the words “dean” and “professor” you should not conjure images of paneled ivory towers or comfortable lecture halls.  Instead, picture the kind of vision and audacity that makes this continent shine (even as it frustrates some of us to distraction): a university founded on sheer determination, by Burundian exiles in Kenya during a genocide, who then returned to their capital to equip a new generation with hope.  Cement buildings, cluttered offices, throngs of students, pockets of well-equipped resources like labs or microscopes but minimal basics like computers or books.  Packed classrooms where students must sometimes compete for chairs. The scramble to keep up with changing government targets as this emerging economy makes abrupt decisions about education. Up to a quarter of students coming across the borders, mostly from Congo, because they have no options nearer to their homes.
Randy’s job might best be pictured as designing 60 or more simultaneous but non-overlapping pathways through a maze. Medical students enter from several countries, after various courses of study, and embark upon pre-clinical classes and clinical rotations designed to produce competent doctors in 6 years. Only at any given time, any given course may or may not have funding or professors or space, so it turns into a multidimensional jigsaw. Randy designs curriculum, arranges professors, teaches in the classroom and on the wards, coordinates visitors, contracts with the public University or private experts for specialized instruction not possible from HAU staff, negotiates with hospitals for rotations, and even raises money for scholarships. Carolyn gets assigned English classes, from beginner to graduate, from ten students in a discussion group to 60 in a crowded classroom, usually with only a week or less notice, constantly changing schedules and hours.  HAU is a bilingual university, where French and English are both used for instruction.

Serge Bujumbura needs help. Hope Africa has hundreds of Engineering, IT, and nursing students with few qualified teachers. We could use 2-5 year commitments from people with a master’s or beyond in those subjects, or any of the basic sciences. The medical school can use pre-clinical science (pathology, anatomy, etc.) professors as well as specialists to teach shorter courses such as neurology or psychiatry . . . these can often be done in 2-4 week blocks. Speaking French is a plus, but we can send you to France for a year to learn first if you are long term.

The good news is this: because of the Bond’s service the last five years, over 200 new doctors have been added in a country with one of the lowest doctor-to-population ratios in the world. A hundred more are in process. They have entered into the Christian community of the city, mentoring and supporting other workers, preaching in their church, offering hospitality. Burundi is not an easy place to get to, or to stay in, but there are many young families making it work.

Email us, or use this Go Form link to get more information. You may enter a difficult path, but you will never regret it.

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