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World Relief Receives $749,606 John Templeton Foundation Grant to Expand Families for Life Programming in Burundi

August 26, 2019

Lauren Carl

World Relief Receives $749,606 John Templeton Foundation Grant to Expand Families for Life Programming in Burundi

Grant to expand impact of World Relief’s church-based outreach on family planning in Burundi

BALTIMORE, Md. – World Relief was recently awarded a voluntary family planning grant from the John Templeton Foundation for their work strengthening families and communities in Burundi. Through this three-year grant, the Templeton Foundation will contribute $749,606 to World Relief’s efforts empowering the local church to promote the healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy, acceptable to a couple’s beliefs and values as each individual made in God’s image. The program will reach 120,884 beneficiaries in Burundi. Currently, the country’s fertility rate – one of the highest in the world – is symptomatic of societal fear and rejection of family planning options, straining families economically and contributing to extremely high rates of chronic malnutrition in children under five years.

“World Relief is humbled by the generosity of the John Templeton Foundation grant and excited to see its impact on improving the spiritual and physical health of the country we’ve worked in for 15 years,” said Tim Breene, CEO of World Relief. “By empowering the local church in Burundi, we can create thriving families and strengthened communities and churches.”                   

World Relief’s approach will build on strengthening the couple’s relationship, communication and decision making, family values and goals, including the intrinsic and equal value of men and women. Accurate and open information about family planning methods and access will be important for couples to make wise choices.

“Family planning is a very sensitive topic,” commented Debbie Dortzbach, World Relief Senior Program Advisor, health and family strengthening. “When discussion is infused with a values-based approach for all children made in God’s image, the church has a unique opportunity no other institution has to build strong families for generations to come.”

An average of 5.5 children are born for every woman in Burundi, which contributes to the fact that it ranks 185th of 189 on the human development index, marking it as one of the poorest countries in the world. Because 91% of Burundians identify as Christian, the church has the access and opportunity to address the gap in sensitive and complex issues like the healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy, and family planning and spousal relationships.

“The birth rate in Burundi continues to be high. This is something to work together on from all interventions—from the church, the government, and partners,” said Rt. Revd Seth Ndayirukiye, Diocese of Matana, Anglican Church of Burundi. “All of us must come together to see what can be done in ways that do not offend. The timing is very right. Thank you, World Relief, for helping us.”  

Dr. Juma Ndereye, Director of National Reproductive Health Program, Burundi Ministry of Health, urged: “Please, let’s join our hands to work at the community level. They need to be empowered. Let them choose when they are well informed. We can measure results together…at the provincial level [working with communities] we can guarantee sustainability.”

Through its Church Empowerment Zone (CEZ) model, World Relief will train church leaders and community volunteers to address the underlying beliefs and social norms beneath the lack of the healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy. World Relief will work with 400 churches of all different denominations in the communes of Kibuye, Ryansoro, and Giheta in Gitega Province to reach a total of 9,600 couples through the church-based Families for Life program, strengthening each member of a family for multiple generations.

Sarah Clement, Director of Character Virtue Development at the Templeton Foundation, commented “World Relief has a strong track record of effectively engaging faith leaders and tapping into existing networks. As such, it is well equipped to partner with local leaders to bring about a shift that will not only help immediate families but improve economic and social factors across communities.”

This project will build on World Relief’s previous work in the country, which since late 2014 has directly reached 1,653,000 individuals. In 2018, World Relief served a total of 5 million beneficiaries through 5,000 churches and 95,000 local volunteers.

Those who wish to learn more about World Relief’s work in Burundi can visit

Download the PDF version of this press release.


About World Relief:

World Relief is a global Christian humanitarian organization that seeks to overcome violence, poverty and injustice. Through love in action, we bring hope, healing and restoration to millions of the world’s most vulnerable women, men and children through vital and sustainable programs in disaster response, health and child development, economic development and peacebuilding, as well as refugee and immigration services in the U.S. For 75 years, we’ve partnered with churches and communities, currently across more than 20 countries, to provide relief from suffering and help people rebuild their lives.

Learn more at

About the John Templeton Foundation

Founded in 1987, the John Templeton Foundation supports research and dialogue on the deepest and most perplexing questions facing humankind. The Foundation funds work on subjects ranging from black holes and evolution to creativity, forgiveness, and free will. It also encourages civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers, theologians, and the public at large. With over $2.8 billion in assets and annual grants of $115 million in 2018, the Foundation ranks among the 25 largest grantmaking foundations in the United States. Headquartered outside Philadelphia, its philanthropic activities have engaged all major faith traditions and extended to more than 100 countries around the world.

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