Today’s blog post comes from Michele Tvedt, leader of the Study Tour. Michele has been involved with the 30 Hour Famine since she was 13. At the age of 16, she traveled to Peru as a Study Tour participant, and now works for 30 Hour Famine. During her time in Burundi, Michele met Domitrien and Innocent, a father and son living in Gaswore. This is their story.
Over the last few days, my eyes have been filled with the beautiful faces of the Burundian people. Their joys, struggles, heartbreak, pain and successes have become my own as I have tentatively listened to their stories and have been welcomed into their homes. It’s difficult to see the poverty we have seen. Even after years working in this field, it’s always difficult to see children who lack opportunity. But the wonderful part of working with World Vision is that there is hope in every home, a promise of better things to come.
This week however, I was introduced to a story of absolute hopelessness, and it rocked my soul. Domitrien is 28 years old, just three years older than myself. He lives with his three-year-old son named Innocent, in a quiet, remote area. On top of a hill, surrounded by banana trees that are not his own, he sleeps in a small hut that is about 6 feet in diameter—no bigger than a queen-sized bed. Ducking into his hut, there was little to see in the dark….just a rock to sit on, a few bowls, and a tattered blanket covering a bit of the dirt.
Domitrien was my age when his wife left him. Innocent was only six months old. Without the ability to breastfeed, Innocent’s growth was severely stunted. Now, at age three, he looks like a one-year-old and can stand only for a few brief moments, with the same shakiness of an infant learning for the first time.
Determined to give his son a better life, Domitrien pleads for work every day. A few times a week, he is usually asked to help chop wood or plow land. When he is lucky enough to find labor, Domitrien is compensated in food or 500 Burundian francs, the equivalent of 50 cents in theUS. Domitiren and his son Innocent, are making due on approximately $1 a week.
When asked about his life, Domitrien somberly replied that it feels as if he is living in a prison. He attends to his son with a rare and sweet tenderness and the loving bond between them was obvious. It is his love for his son, which motivates Domitrien to wake up each morning and continue to pray to God that he simply survive.
Domitrien’s story is one of absolute desolation. He is living in a fairly new World Vision supported community which means help is on the way, but it might not come soon enough. Innocent is registered as a sponsored child, but he has yet to be sponsored.
Thursday night, circled around candles, Team Burundi sat beneath the stars and reflected on the story of Domitrien and his son Innocent. We began to brainstorm what it would take to completely change the outcome of this story. It would cost only $75 to build Domitrien and his son a home, which would also provide much-needed shelter against September’s heavy rain. It would require another $50 to purchase some bedding and cooking materials and just a bit more could provide tools so Domitrien could till his own land and plant food. That night, TeamBurundiput together their money, adding up to $200—more than enough for Domitrien and Innocence. However there was still the issue of Innocent’s sponsorship. Nicole raised her hand and said she would be proud to be the new sponsor of Innocent.
On the Study Tour we have seen devastation and immense sorrow. That being said, we have also discovered that it doesn’t take much to radically change the outcome of someone’s life. No longer will Domitrien feel imprisoned, for his is now a story of redemption, hope, and promise. These students have realized that their efforts truly do make a lasting difference on lives around the world. This is what the Famine is all about…..small efforts releasing the chains of the oppressed and setting the captives free.