Editor’s note: Kathryn Buckley-Brawner (right in photo above), director of the Springfield Diocese’s Catholic Charities Agency and a parishioner of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Granby, and Jessica Dupont, a parishioner of Immaculate Conception Parish in Holyoke, are traveling to Burundi with Catholic Relief Services. Jessica, the daughter of Catholic Communications Mark Dupont, offers this reflection.
By Jessica Dupont
After 25 long hours of travel, the CRS Diocesan Team Delegation to Burundi landed at7:10 PM on the hot, humid night of September 10th. Forty-five minutes of paperwork, fever checks, and baggage claim fun, we were on our way into the dark Burundi evening. Given the darkness, my first experience of the country was the not of the sights but rather the sounds of humming insects and the smells of fires. Bujumbara, the capital city of Burundi, would be our home for the next 7 days.
After a much needed night’s sleep, our group was ready to embark on day 1 of our journey in country. Many of us shared the wonderful experience of being woken by the beautiful sounds of Mass being celebrated in the center of the Mont Sion Retreat center where we are staying. Even from a distance, the joy and enthusiasm with which the participants celebrated God’s word was breath-taking. As a group, we began our day celebrating Mass in a small outdoor gazebo. As a small breeze passed through while we worshiped, there was no doubt that the Holy Spirit was with us, giving us strength and encouragement for the journey ahead.
Following Mass and breakfast, we spent the remainder of our morning with the Catholic Relief Service’s (CRS) Burundi Country staff at their offices. They provided incredibly knowledgeable information regarding the major projects CRS is currently funding here in country, several of which we will be fortunate enough to go and witness first hand in the coming days. It is important to know that with the exception of very few individuals, all CRS country staff are Burundi themselves. To meet such passionate individuals committed to making a lasting and sustainable change in their country was inspiring. They have committed their lives, some upwards of 20 years, to the work of reversing and preventing malnutrition, fostering peace amongst ethnic groups through economic empowerment, and helping those marginalized by their society find work when their livelihood was taken from them. To me, they exemplify the work that God calls us to do each and every day to help those around us who are most in need.
The remainder of the day was spent touring the neighborhoods of Bujumbura, taking in the incredible landscape and economic diversity that makes up the capital.
Tomorrow, we will visit Action Batwa, an organization that is trying to change the social behaviors of the Batwa people of Burundi so as to allow for greater integration with Burundian society. Representing approximately 2% of the population, the Batwa are marginalized and outcast by Burundian society. For more information on the ethic groups of Burundi and their history, visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burundi