‘My children are all I have left’: a Burundian mother’s story

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By Brenda Leenders

Ten Thousand Villages hoping to make this mother’s day one of life, hope, food, health

In one of the poorest countries in the world, Mennonite Central Committee and Canadian Foodgrains Bank is helping one widowed mother build a brighter future for her children.

Yvone Nindamutsa is tired after a long day of work. But her eyes light up as her youngest son, Kikwete, jumps into her arms.

“He is named after the Tanzanian president,” she says.

Asked why, her answer is simple. “I have so many hopes in my son,” she says.

Nindamutsa is a mother like millions of others around the world who hope their children can grow up to be leaders, making a difference in the world. Right now, Kikwete is far from that; he’s a chubby three-year old who is all smiles and bundles of energy. The thing he loves to do best at this stage of his life is running up and down the dirt roads surrounding his family’s little mud house on one of Burundi’s many hills.

Although Kikwete is still too young to fully realize what it means to be growing up in a poor, landless family in one of the poorest countries in the world, his world is one of love and belonging — thanks to his mother.

“My future depends on the future of my children,” says Nindamutsa, balancing Kikwete on one hip.

Raising eight children is hard; last year, Nindamutsa’s husband died of pneumonia. “My children are all I have left,” she says.

She is putting her heart and soul into making sure her children, ranging in age between three and 20, have the healthiest start to life possible.

Like most Burundians, Nindamutsa is a small-scale farmer. She struggles each season to grow enough food to feed her family on a tiny plot of land, never mind growing enough to sell on the side and afford such things as medicine and school fees.

That’s where the Canadian Foodgrains Bank comes in.

Every day, Nindamutsa works for several hours at a food-for-work program implemented by Foodgrains Bank member Mennonite Central Committee. Through the project she plants trees to help re-forest Burundi’s devastated natural environment.

It’s tough work in a hot sun, but for her it’s worth it.

“I can tell you truthfully, if it wasn’t for this program, not all of my children would be alive,” she says.

But Nindamutsa’s day doesn’t end when her tree planting duties are finished. She’s also become an entrepreneur, using local ingredients to make beverages and selling them to people in the community.

Planting trees, farming and selling juice — all these things keep Nindamutsa busier than any mother should ever have to be. But it’s what many mothers in Burundi must do in order to make sure their children have what they need.

“They give me hope,” she says, looking at little Kikwete. “Maybe one day he will be president.”

As Canadian Foodgrains Bank is about ending global hunger, Ten Thousand Villages is about ending global poverty. Both where started by the Mennonite Central Committee. Both work with the poorest in our world, who have no other hope. The reality is that the majority of the poorest in our world are mothers. In the developing world, one of the groups most adversely affected by hunger are mothers. When hunger comes to a community or family, women are often the first to go without food, often giving up their share for their children. Good nutrition is also extremely important for pregnant and nursing mothers; not only is it harmful for the woman to go without food, but the child also suffers.

This Mother’s Day, you can give the gift of life, hope, income, food, school and health to mothers and families by purchasing your gift at our Spring Fair Trade Gift Sale, May 2, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and May 3 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at St Andrew’s United Church in Truro. If you want to help or learn more, contact Brenda at leenders@eastlink.ca, 902-893 4197.

Organizations: Mennonite Central Committee, Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Ten Thousand Villages United Church

Geographic location: Burundi, Truro

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