By Nancy Okwengu
Nzinizirira Angeline, a 67-year-old widow, has survived through tragedies including the death of her husband and seven children. She smiles and is thankful that she has one surviving daughter who has given her three grandchildren.
Her granddaughter, nine-year-old Habineza Agnes, has recently finished her day at school and has come to visit Angeline. The two are inseparable, often holding hands and unconsciously patting each other. Agnes is not the only source of her joy though. She says the volunteers from the Burundi Red Cross are also a cause of hope.
Volunteer Simon Nyongeara has developed a strong relationship with Angeline. She refers to him as ‘my son, the one sent to save me’ after Simon led a team of volunteers to build Angeline a house when her old one was on the verge of collapsing.
For months Angeline did not enjoy her sleep for fear that the old house would fall down around her. She also used to have nightmares of being trapped. “I however had no choice but to sleep in that shack because I could not sleep in the open cold at night,” she says.
“Seeing the desperate situation, the Burundi Red Cross volunteers fetched locally available building materials and quickly built another house for Angeline. The response came in the nick of time, because her old house fell down two days after she moved into the new one,” says Simon.
“I could have died that day; that house might have fallen on me and buried me alive,” Angeline says.
The volunteers also visit Angeline regularly to provide her with food that they harvest from income generating activities of the local Red Cross unit.
Vestine Nyonkuru, who supervises the local units in Giranga commune, says: “We are willing to help, but we don’t have enough means to cover all the needs of the vulnerable people. Most of the time we use our hands and we rely on the income generating initiatives.”
The volunteers in the commune help vulnerable people through; raising funds to clear medical bills for the sick, building houses, cultivating farmland, transporting the sick to the hospital, administering first aid during public events or road accidents among others.
They are able to do all this through the training they have received from the Burundi Red Cross. So far there are 25 volunteers in this unit that have been trained on emergency response by the National Society’s headquarters and these have, in turn, trained others. The commune now has 16 local Red Cross units which cover the whole community corner to corner.
Angeline’s face is filled with pride as she takes Agnes’ hand while showing off her new home. From a small old shack, her new house has two rooms, the positive change is indisputable. This is indeed the dawning of a bright future for Angeline’s family from just a little support stimulated by the Burundi Red Cross’s volunteerism.