A long journey 

On December 25th, 2005, a group of 11 men and 4 women from Kigutu gathered to talk about their most pressing issues. They chose a site for what is now the Sharon McKenna Community Health Center, and together convinced the community of subsistence farmers to gift 25 acres of land, their most valuable possession.

As construction plans were drawn, the local community began making bricks; women started carrying stones on their heads and together they pitched in 150,000 Burundian Francs ($150) to rent a truck and bring equipment to the health center site. More than 150 community members labored for days to carve nearly four miles of new road.

There were grueling setbacks, but giving up was never an option for this community. They pressed on, knowing that nothing worthwhile comes easily and that it would take a lengthy process to accomplish their mission. Everyone understood that we had to work together to achieve lasting results. And they did - with such passion and intensity that the work became a calling and the site became a place of healing, reconciliation, fun, and hopeful futures.

Fast forward a few years. We have now built a comprehensive development model that is holistic, offering clinical treatment and prevention services as well as agricultural and environmental protection programs, educational activities, and income-generating cooperatives. It is at times hard to believe how fast we have progressed given our humble beginnings. In December 2012, Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza even declared: “Of all the public and private sector organizations operating in the country, Village Health Works is the best of all.”