Céline RIHOUX, a young Belgian nurse, volunteered in the community of Gitega, Burundi
Bujumbura 9pm: The plane touches down on the tarmac. This is it, after almost a year’s wait, I’ve arrived in Burundi. After a Covid test (does that still exist?!) and the crowds, I meet Sr. Yollande and Roger at the airport. These two formerly virtual friends are now in the real world.
After a night’s rest at the PAR (Procure d’Accueil Religieux) and a few zigzagging roads through the magnificent Burundian hills, we arrived in Gitega and more precisely at the home of Srs. Marceline, Maïté, Anastésie and Yollande. As soon as I entered the property, I found myself surrounded by smiles and words of welcome. It was very comforting after a long and tiring journey.
Over the next few days, I worked in the dispensary run by the Missionary Sisters of Africa in Gitega.
The work consisted of taking part in individual medical consultations, wound care, vaccinations and the analysis of blood/bacteriological samples. It was very interesting to discover new pathologies and other care techniques, as well as to observe the administrative and organizational management of the clinic.
Secondly, living in a community gave me the opportunity to spend some quality time with myself and, above all, to take my time – something that may seem trivial but is all too often neglected in today’s Belgian society, where stress and productivity are the watchwords for most people.
Throughout the trip I was able to meet people who were extremely generous and proud to show me their way of life.
In addition to my work at the health Centre, I was able to discover Sr. Maïté’s profession as a teacher. We talked about opening up to the world in the ECOSO School, as well as raising awareness and planting Artemisia and Moringa in the art school. It was also a very rewarding experience, as I was able to talk to other young people and learn about the benefits of a natural resource that is little known in Belgium.
During the weekends, I had the opportunity to be guided by Roger, a Burundian friend without whom my presence in Burundi would simply not have been possible. With his knowledge of the country’s 1001 nooks and crannies, it was with amazed eyes that I discovered Burundi’s agricultural and scenic diversity, and with wide-open ears that I listened to him tell me all sorts of stories about the country.
What’s more, having been in Belgian scouting since childhood, I took part in a scout meeting in Gitega one Sunday. It was incredible to see that even there, the values specific to youth movements are similar to those in Belgium: sharing, listening, respect, friendship, love and so much more.
In conclusion, I’d like to say a huge thank you to all the people who helped me through this professional/personal experience, because without them, nothing would have been possible.