So, I have a confession to make.
This is probably the sixth time I’ve attempted to write to all of you. I’ve written and written, but it’s proven difficult to try and communicate everything that has been happening here over the past month.
So, I’m incredibly sorry for the delay. We’ll see how this attempt works out!
Many of you have written and asked for updates about the clinic, congratulating us on our grand opening…
Let me start by saying we’re not open…
There is frustration, disappointment, resignation and guilt contained in that sentence, as if somehow Nadine and I are responsible for the delays. There is also understanding, joy, and faith in God for his provision and timing. Let me just say that the last month has been full of ups and downs.
I’ll start where we last left off. Nadine and I celebrated one year in Burundi by holding our first job interviews for the Shammah Health Center. It was an exciting day, where it was made very clear to us who our leading candidates were for the positions of lead nurse, lab technician, and cleaning supervisor. It was an absolutely exhausting day, but we couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend our anniversary here.
Flash forward to a week later, and our staff have shown up for the first day of work. Nadine was holding down the fort while I’m was stuck in Bujumbura sourcing equipment and attempting to get the money needed to pay for it. I’ll never complain about a 30 minute wait in a TD bank ever again!
While I was working on this, Nadine phoned with the news that our nurse showed up to work with a salary demand twice that which was agreed to at the interview. When we couldn’t meet his demand, he walked. Our 2nd candidate for the position then demanded contract changes that we couldn’t agree to. Again, when we couldn’t meet his demands, our #2 walked away from the health center.
I can’t tell you how difficult it was to understand what was happening to us. We live in a country where unemployment sits above 70%!! These people felt they could somehow get a job and take advantage of us as well.
With our other candidates nowhere near the level of experience and education we needed for this vital first hire, we had no clue how to move on. So our grand plans to open the health center in February quickly went up in flames.
But, when God closes a door, he opens a window. Or is it another door? Either way, while Nadine was phoning me to talk about all of this, I received an email from a good friend of ours, a Burundian physician, letting me know he recently lost his job, and he was looking for work.
It’s hard to explain, but God made it abundantly clear to us that a physician was needed for the health center. So, last Friday, the 28th, we held a second round of interviews, this time for a doctor to work with us at Shammah.
We are happy to tell you that our favourite candidate accepted the job offer, and he starts tomorrow! Pending everything going well (we are praying, working so hard!) we hope to open our doors to the public on March 10th, 2014.
It will be one year, one month and 11 days since we arrived in Burundi. Yikes!
There have been so many things we have wanted to share with you, but haven’t found the words. For weeks I was working to get a blog post up called “New Faces,” where I planned to share with you all of the amazing new people we have in our lives here in Gitega.
We have Benny, Aloua, Kayna and Kevin, our four new children at Homes of Hope. They are now living in one of the houses made empty by the provision of our guesthouse. This should be such a proud accomplishment for so many of you who made the guesthouse possible. By taking part in that project, you freed up the resources needed to rescue these kids from a life of poverty here in Burundi. These orphans are now part of our BYFC family thanks to you! I’ll tell you, the cuteness level here in Gitega skyrocketed through the roof with the addition of these four!
And even though we had difficulty with our nursing staff, we hired two incredible and amazing people for our other positions!
We have Matabishi, our lab-technician. He is Congolese, married to a Burundian, and Nadine and I were extremely happy to reunite him with is pregnant wife here in Gitega. Matabishi previously had a job working in the south of Burundi, work that separated him from his child and expectant wife. He has a great sense of humour, and is probably one of the most experienced and well-educated medical lab techs in the country! We are incredibly blessed to have him on board.
Vumilia is our chief cleaner. She was previously unemployed, trying to get together anything she could to support her three children. She is Tanzanian, married to a Burundian that she met working several years at a Burundian refugee camp across the Tanzanian border. A nursing assistant, she is experienced with healthcare and education, and has an extensive background in maternity. Her primary role will be cleanliness and hygiene supervision, health teaching and assisting with births.
Just this past week, Nadine was organizing supplies in the health center when Vumilia and Matabishi both showed up for a visit on their day off. They had come to greet us and bring encouragement, and to pray for the health center! They are so excited to begin working!
Finally, we can introduce to you our physician, Zenon. A Burundian, he has extensive experience working with NGO health organizations, and we actually first met him last summer in Uganda at the health workshop we attended there. Zenon has the personal experience working with the Ministry of Health that we desperately need, and he’s got a community health background and has a huge passion for growth and development.
God truly has blessed us with the most excellent staff! With these people, we are going to set a new standard for healthcare in our province, and we can’t wait to begin making a difference in the lives of our community members.
In the meantime, we’ve been hard at work hosting visitors for BYFC, training on our new laboratory equipment, coordinating with existing and potential partners, and focusing on our electrical and solar needs. It’s been a lot of work, but we have a diesel generator installed, with plans being finalized to install a solar grid for Shammah. Progress!
We are continuing to seek funds for this equipment. Our solar needs will most likely be in excess of $20,000 USD, setting up a system that will be self-contained and completely sustainable for many years, covering all of our anticipated electrical demands. We still have our plans for an expanded laboratory this summer, as well as planning for potential staff additions if our patient needs increase.
I am also riding the 2nd annual Tour du Burundi this year! There are over 20 riders signed up, one of them being my Dad! With my experience and time in country, I will be expected to be a leader this year, and I hope I’m up for the challenge. I’ve set a fund-raising goal, money that will 100% be directed to the clinic, supporting the needs we’ve talked about, of $5,500 CAN.
Do you think you are up for the challenge of supporting us? Life has been an absolute roller coaster this entire year, and certainly in the last 30 days it’s been nuts! If this blog post has felt scatter-brained, then that truly does reflect reality. But God is moving in powerful ways and he has provided. The promise of faith goes beyond salvation, it is life transforming. We are experiencing that everyday here, with heartache, laughter, confusion, and excitement all being felt simultaneously.
Do you know people in your life who want to be a part of something greater? Something impactful? God is doing incredible things here and we are experiencing it firsthand, and you can share in that blessing and challenge, and share it with others. We are all looking to move beyond ourselves, to do as Christ has commanded us to do, to love the poor and needy, who hold a special place in his heart. So, share, repost, and contact us. We’d love to hear from you and share about how you can make a difference here in Burundi.
I’m going to sign off for now. I apologize at the length of this update, but we’ll get back to our “regular scheduled programming” here ASAP.
God bless, and love you all! Please enjoy the photos sharing the faces of our new friends and children here in Gitega!!!