Widows in world’s second-poorest country regain dignity

By August 27, 2010

Burundi (MNN) — If someone were to be asked what they know about the last 20 years of African history, they may site the Rwandan genocide of the 90's as a major landmark. What many people do not know, however, is that Rwanda's neighboring country, Burundi, also suffered at the hands of Hutu and Tutsi wars. Burundi has flown beneath the radar of many, and as of 2009 was declared the second-poorest country in the world by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Three years ago, Global Action recognized the great need in Burundi and decided to link arms with Pan African Christian Women Alliance to begin helping widows in the country. The program began with 60 of the most at-risk widows God had laid in their path. Global Action's Emily Voorhies, who recently returned from a visit to the program, says the program has grown astronomically.

"I went in and met with our team. We are helping about 154 women now in the program, and between them, they represent about 612 children," says Voorhies.

The ten-month micro-enterprise program Global Action has started is working wonderfully. Women are taught a trade such as sewing or hairdressing, and they are given the skills and resources to start a business. At the end of the program, they are off to begin new lives while still checking in with Global Action.

"It's amazing that once they get started in those little businesses, they're able to support themselves and return some dignity to their lives, and then even send their kids to school. I think nobody really wants to live with their hand out all the time," explains Voorhies.

Supporting their own children is a dignifying accomplishment. "We look at it as a holistic project. It's not just about the women but how we support the women in their efforts to support their families," says Voorhies. This is quite a feat as their families are often not small. Many of these women have their own kids but have also taken in orphans and can't afford to send all of them to school.

While in the program, Global Action helps support and provide for these kids. But often, when women are out and have begun their business, they can begin to support their families from the money they make.

Global Action is providing a new lease on life for several woman by providing life skills, food, resources, health care and more. But perhaps the most important thing they do is introduce women to their true Life Saver.

"[When we started,] one of the key things that we wanted for them to see through our program is just what God's love looks like in action," says Voorhies. The ministry has reached and surpassed this goal.

Voorhies recounts one story of a woman she met during her recent Burundi trip. The woman had been raped by a family member, impregnated as a result, and thrown to the streets. After another childbirth and failed relationship, the woman was forced to prostitute herself to feed her two hungry children. When she heard about the Global Action program, however, her life was changed.

Throughout the program, the woman not only learned important life skills to support herself, but she began to regain her dignity and understand who she was in the eyes of the Savior. Voorhies says she has a completely new outlook on life. "She even said, ‘You know, you don't even know us, but you care about us. If you weren't here, so many of us would be on the streets. But now we have a skill; we have a way to move forward in our life, and we have hope.'"

Praise God for the transformations being made in many women and children through Global Action's faithful work in an impoverished country. Pray that the leaders of the program will continue to be filled with strength to teach and love the women under their care. Pray also that the students would be reborn as they come to understand Christ's unending love for them.

If you would like to sponsor this program or one like it, visit the Global Action Women of Global Action (WOGA) site.


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