Giving Thanks: From a Mother in Burundi


Earlier this month, we shared the story of Capitoline, a hero who’s saving the lives of many children in her community in Burundi.  Now, we get to share the story of a grateful mother who knows firsthand just how important Capitoline’s skills and care are. “Nobody can love and take care of our children the way Capitoline does,” Emmanuella said, as she thought of the time her 17-month-old came down with a high fever and had convulsions in the middle of the night.  She and her husband were afraid - these were signs of malaria, a disease that is preventable and treatable, yet often deadly in Burundi.

But Emmanuella knew her neighbor, Capitoline, was a community health worker trained by World Relief. So in the early morning hours, the family ran to Capitoline’s house nearby for help.  She was able to immediately give Emmanuella’s child the proper medications, which led to recovery just three days later.

In the past, Emmanuella had taken her children to the hospital when they were sick. But a trip to the local hospital was a significant journey on foot, and they would often have to wait to even be admitted once they arrived. Capitoline’s medical training meant that Emmanuella and her family didn’t have to wait a long time to receive treatment – time that can mean the difference between life and death.

World Relief has trained hundreds of other community health workers like Capitoline, who are always ready and willing to help their neighbors.  In addition to diagnosing and treating different diseases, they also educate their neighbors about simple hygiene practices that promote good health for every-day living.

Emmanuella knows that health workers like Capitoline are invaluable: “We thank God that we now have a community health worker in our neighborhood.”

To give thanks and empower more heroes like Capitoline, visit empowerahero.org.

World Relief in Burundi: Maternal & Child Health


In Burundi, approximately 58 percent of children under the age of 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition. Malnutrition is associated with serious medical issues later in life as well as lower education attainment, lower earnings and more prevalent violence. It is a result of poor nutritional practices, limited access to food, minimal dietary diversity and chronic illness. Because 80 percent of Burundians live on less than $1.25 per day and have limited access to the most basic financial services, poverty compounds these vulnerabilities and contributes to a cycle of malnutrition in households. World Relief is empowering the local church to serve the most vulnerable in Burundi and meet the holistic physical, spiritual and relational needs that exist. World Relief provides long-term training and supervision of staff and government officials, who in turn train Health Workers and mothers to promote better health practices in the community through behavioral transformation. Concurrently, World Relief works with the Ministry of Agriculture to train Community Health Workers on the operation and development of small gardens for women to grow food and improve household nutrition and dietary diversity. World Relief also works in partnership with church network Dutabarane to provide crucial financial instruments to the poor through Village Savings and Loans Associations.


Marasmus is a form of severe malnutrition caused by a deficiency in calories and energy.Félicité Havyarimana, a young woman from the central province of Gitega, had witnessed the effects of the disease in the life of her son, Alfred, ever since he was one year old. She said, “I was sad and desperate, not knowing what to do. In my despair, I turned to traditional healers, convinced that someone had cast a curse on my child.”

When a volunteer from World Relief’s Child Survival Program visited Félicité and examined her son, she explained that Alfred was suffering from malnutrition and that it could be cured. “I didn’t believe her, of course,” said Félicité. “Nevertheless, since nothing had worked so far, I started to follow her advice on health and nutrition, even if I wasn’t really convinced”.

A month later, Alfred began gaining weight and his health began improving. Encouraged, Félicité began participating in World Relief’s cooking workshops, where she learned about the components and preparation of well-balanced meals. “The lessons were really helpful to my children, especially to Alfred who was totally cured and went back to his normal weight,” said Félicité.

Almost three years old, Alfred is now a healthy child who, like many of his peers in the province, has benefited from World Relief’s Maternal & Child Health program. Félicité said that the program opened her eyes to the mistakes she did not know she was making when it came to the nutrition and health of her children. “Now,” she said, “I try as much as possible to keep them on a healthy and well-balanced diet, and I take them to the hospital to see a doctor at the first sign of illness, instead of seeking advice from traditional healers.”

At the root of the program is the long-term goal of Integral transformation of not only behavior, but beliefs, values and attitudes that bring Burundians to a place where they can experience the kind of life Jesus came to bring – life to the full (John 10:10).


Savings For Life: Financial Opportunity for the World’s Most Vulnerable

Kenya Savings 1

The world’s poorest have a tremendous capacity and willingness to save and protect assets when financial institutions cannot serve them. They save to meet social obligations, to prepare for emergencies, to start or expand small businesses and to respond to seasonal changes in cash flow. However, the lack of banks in rural areas often leads to high fees and unattainable minimum balance requirements, leaving savings vulnerable to loss and theft.

Since piloting the Savings for Life program in 2008, World Relief has empowered more than 100 thousand participants across six countries through the facilitation of effective and impactful community-based savings and credit groups. After years of testing and expanding, World Relief has developed a program that offers safe and reliable financial services to people who are otherwise excluded from formal banking institutions. Through regular savings and access to appropriately sized loans, group members can meet daily household needs and establish their own income-generating activities.

The Savings for Life program, like other World Relief initiatives, is also one of spiritual transformation. It is integral to the fulfillment of World Relief’s mission to “empower the local church to serve the most vulnerable.” Churches are the point of contact in communities where World Relief is present and pastors work to identify the most vulnerable within those communities. Church volunteers serve as field agents to mobilize and train the savings groups. Finally, World Relief promotes Savings groups because of its commitment to the holistic Gospel of Jesus Christ, a message that leads to transformation in every area of life.

Often, World Relief implements the Savings for Life program alongside other interventions. In Burundi, care group volunteers who bring life-saving health messages to more than 30 thousand mothers every month are invited to participate in Savings for Life groups. In Rwanda, Savings for Life is combined with leadership training so that church and community members can take initiative to meet the needs of vulnerable neighbors with their own resources. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, farmer group members involved in Savings for Life can buy better seeds and fertilizer with their own resources to produce greater yields.

Some of the most vulnerable in Kenya have also benefited from Savings for Life. Compared to other countries in East Africa, Kenya enjoys the largest, most diversified economy (USAID, 2013). Because of its location, the country serves as a place of transport and therefore plays a vital role for much of sub-Saharan Africa. However, decades of unjust governance have stunted economic development. About 60 percent of Kenyans live on US$2 or less per day (USAID, 2013). Kenyans facing poverty often lack access to the most basic financial services. Supplementing the life-impacting work of economic development, Savings for Life groups in Kenya educate members in managing their own savings. As savings accumulate, group members have access to appropriately-sized loans with which they can finance business or personal needs.

In 2011, a women’s group registered with World Relief in Kenya and Fadhili Trust to participate in a village savings and loan association in Ongata Rongai in Kajiado North. Group members save and lend their funds among themselves and also contribute to a social fund to assist with emergencies. When the group began to grow, the women registered with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development to be recognized by other institutions and gain negotiation power for development. Now, they plan to begin using savings to purchase land for various group members. In the last two and a half years, not one of the members has defaulted on a loan or payment. This is the story of just one of several groups operating in seven regions across Kenya.

Kenya Savings 2

The groups also provide discipleship for members through regular Bible studies. World Relief believes that God’s restorative plan for mankind includes, among many things, character development with regard to stewardship, personal finance and attitude towards work. The goal is not wealth, but worship – pointing the most vulnerable to a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ and empowering them to live in a way that brings Him glory.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

A trip in Burundi

by Michael Beeman I have a card from my grandmother, on the front of which, it is written, “Grandson, life will take you to some faraway places.”, and on the inside, “Know that wherever you go, love goes with you”.  It is true.  During a trip to a Care Group outside of Gitega, southeast of Bujumbura, I witnessed the power of community and God’s love.

In the Kibuye Health District, World Relief manages a Child Survival Project.  Through the Care Group Model, promoters train a group of volunteers on issues pertinent to Child Health, like malaria, diarrhea, and nutrition.  These volunteers in turn visit approximately 10 households to share this information.  The program is quite effective; malnutrition rates in children under 5 have plummeted to 8% from 36%.

With a few from WR offices, I recently journeyed from Gitega to the Care Group Meeting in neighboring Itaba commune.  For one hour, we traversed a severely rutted road.  Surrounded by hills of banana plants and coffee fields, we drove through heaps of mud and deep puddles of rain, only to reach narrower roads.  Along these roads were men and women coming and going, students at the end of their day, and toddlers who would stop playing and stare at the large, white Land Cruiser slowly making its way over bumps and around bends.

With the help of Lucie, the Care Group supervisor, we eventually made it to the school grounds where the Care Group met.  Once there, the welcome was naturally genial; greetings exchanged and a short song sung for an opening.

For this day’s meeting, the topic was nutrition.

They discussed the best practices to nourish children.  A couple acted out two skits: one showed the preparation of a meal low in nutritious ingredients, while the second showed the proper preparation of a meal that meets babies’ nutritious needs.  The subsequent discussion drew out the importance of a meal rich in micronutrients important for their babies.  The participating parents identified the problems in the skit and the solutions, which they in turn would apply themselves and share with their neighbors.  The discussion was successful; everyone actively participated and supported their peers in preparing the distribution of this knowledge.

Our departure hardly meant a disconnection.  Rather, the exchange strengthened the connection, in the spirit of turikumwe: although separated, we are together.  During the ride back home I thought of my Grandmother’s card.  Here, in the Itaba commune, the strength of community and the love of God were present.  In the beauty of the hills and the energy of the Care Group, the health and strength of families, World Relief, and myself were being restored.

Michael Beeman is a Program Research and Development Intern with World Relief in Burundi.

Photos by Marianne Bach

(1) A few of our World Relief health promoters in Burundi.

(2) Care groups are places of knowledge, learning, and relationship building.

(3) Mothers and children alike benefit through World Relief's care group model.