Help­ing from the heart for Bu­rundi

Shepparton News - - NEWS - By Rhi­an­non Tuffield

Eleven years ago, Bu­rundi na­tive Sifa Mir­eye was given the chance of a new life in Aus­tralia, af­ter a life­time spent in refugee camps when her fam­ily fled their home­land.

Af­ter set­tling into Shep­par­ton in 2006, Ms Mir­eye and her fam­ily have not had to worry about se­cu­rity, food, med­i­cal help or ed­u­ca­tion, and the 22-year-old now wants to use what she has gained to give back to the for­got­ten na­tion of Bu­rundi.

Since the start of the year, Ms Mir­eye, with the sup­port of Shep­par­ton St Paul’s Lutheran Church, has saved $2000 to­wards the de­vel­op­ment of an $80 000 12-room school, med­i­cal cen­tre and church in Bu­rundi.

The land will cost $10 000 alone, with the rest con­tribut­ing to the ac­tual de­vel­op­ment on it.

Al­though she left her coun­try too young to re­ally know it, Ms Mir­eye had learned more about her cul­ture and the strug­gles faced by her peo­ple, and what led her fam­ily to ul­ti­mately flee.

‘‘Bu­rundi is the sec­ond poor­est coun­try in the world and peo­ple of­ten don’t know where their next meal is com­ing from,’’ Ms Mir­eye said.

‘‘Ed­u­ca­tion, health care and other things we take for granted are only avail­able to the rich, and there is still a lot of fight­ing and every day peo­ple have to deal with in­se­cu­rity.’’

It was through her re­search that she heard about Bu­run­dian pas­tor Emile, who, with a group of lead­ers, de­vel­oped the plan to build the project.

The ini­tial goal is to buy land in Bu­jum­bura, be­fore the con­struc­tion of the church us­ing ma­te­ri­als and labour pro­vided by lo­cal mem­bers, and stage three will be the con­struc­tion of the class­rooms.

Ms Mir­eye said even though she had not prop­erly known her coun­try, it was still a place which held a spe­cial place in her heart and she wanted to give back to the peo­ple there.

‘‘I’m blessed, if I was in Africa I wouldn’t have had all of these op­por­tu­ni­ties that I’ve had here so far, es­pe­cially to go to school,’’ she said.

‘‘My own ex­pe­ri­ence has made me want to help peo­ple, and I think that help­ing needs to come from the heart and you have to want to do it.

‘‘It’s a lot of money and it won’t hap­pen overnight, but it’s up to us to do what we can do.’’ ● The church will hold a fundraiser at Shep­par­ton IGA on Satur­day, Septem­ber 23 to raise money for the cause. If you are in­ter­ested in do­nat­ing, please visit www.shep­par­ton­luther­anchurch. org/bu­rundi-mis­sion.html or phone 5821 5206. Blessed:

Bu­rundi woman Sifa Mir­eye, now liv­ing in Shep­par­ton, is hop­ing to raise money for her home coun­try.

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