Fun Run for VHW
By Finn Jackson
Jardin Public, Bujumbura
On March 17th, St Patrick’s Day, we organized a Fantastic Fun Run for Village Health Works in the Public Garden of Bujumbura. I had been wanting to run a race (like a 5K) but couldn’t find one in Burundi to participate in. After visiting the VHW clinic with my family in January, I decided to organize a run myself and raise money for a good cause at the same time. One day I shared the idea with one of my teachers at school (the Belgian School in Bujumbura) and he wondered if the school could help. To get the word out both inside and outside of Bujumbura, we set up a website on Crowdrise.com where people could learn about the run and donate. I also spoke to the kids at the school and encouraged them to participate. My brother Liam is a really good artist so he drew posters for the event and hung them around the school.
International Musicians Visit VHW
By Wendy Steiner
Health is impossible to achieve in the absence of education, and Burundian schooling, like so much else in this devastated country, is in a desperate state (#1, 2)
In the summer of 2012, Deo unveiled a vision for a model school, the Kigutu Academy, which would provide Burundian children with a world-class education. His deeply humanistic conception calls for music as the heart of the curriculum. In the Kigutu Academy, every child would develop the complex learning skills of listening, concentration, obedience, and cooperation through the joy of making music.
Margo Harrison MD, MPH, New York Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University Medical Center, Department of OB/GYN, PGY-3
It was such a short trip. So short that I’ll admit many of my thoughts revolved around anxieties related to going back home. But there is one thing that impressed me in Burundi. Not the absolute majesty of the area—the lushness of the land whose florescent green skin, tricking the mind into thinking it was thick and jungley and forever productive, was actually thin and scarred and gave the eerie feeling of a five o’clock shadow that could, and might, be shaved off at a moment’s notice. Not the iridescent sunsets that I tried night after night to capture from the top of a hill, suggesting that the richness of Africa was something that would always be a treasure rife to be pilfered by a mzungu. Not the poverty, though that was something that puzzled me incessantly, only highlighting my own ignorance by the fact that everyone else around me seemed to understand it so fully. It was not the swollen ankles of the malnourished, the burned faces of the epileptics, the feet of children swollen into unrecognizable water balloons of puss waiting to be popped by an errant bone, or the tantalizing sensationalism of millions of stories of terror and trauma buried not so deeply in the subconscious of every single Burundian. What makes me a slightly different person from the one who was buying a chai tea from the Brussels airport Starbucks for $4.75 at 6:15am on the way to Burundi, and the one who bought the same thing at 7:30am on the way home, was their eyes.
A Visitor to VHW
Shared impressions by Sarah Bennison Machiels
"Wow, another amazing day. We started the day going back to the Village Health Works clinic. Today was the day when the community comes to volunteer, and the women's cooperatives were working. In addition to the clinic, as part of community development, VHW runs about 50 women's cooperatives - women are making baskets, sewing, landscaping, and as they work together in small groups they talk to one another, building community. This is a big part of the healing process in this country that has experienced so much tragedy and violence. I have been trying to really understand when the war began and ended, and it seems that it did not really end until 2007. This means that a whole generation of children grew up in this conflict, and many who expatriated to Tanzania are now being forced back to Burundi with nothing. The sense of devastation and grief experienced here is still very tangible, even amidst the beautiful smiles of the people and their friendly, gentle nature.
In early January of 2011, we admitted Cynthia—a 16-year old young woman from a nearby village—to our health center for treatment of tropical diabetes and severe malnutrition. Topical diabetes is caused by the calcification of the pancreas due to cyanide poisoning, a condition all too common in communities where cassava makes up the bulk of the daily diets. Roughly 82% of the population in our catchment area has a diet likely to be only cassava due to lack of knowledge about other types of food.
At the time we saw Cynthia, she had severe marasmus, with hair loss and changes to her skin, and also a blood glucose level of 544 mg/dL (normal adult range is closer to 100 mg/dL). We hospitalized Cynthia and were able to balance her required dose of insulin with therapeutic milk, which contains sugar. While her case was clinically quite challenging, our staff provided consistent, quality care and in time she improved enough to go home.
After she was released she took insulin for four months and her blood sugar stabilized. Cynthia became a part of our Women’s Agricultural Training Program. She gained access to training and learned what to eat and not to eat. After four months, she was able to stop taking insulin, but continued to come to the Kigutu health center for follow up visits and her blood sugar remained stable.
Today, Cynthia remains in good health without insulin. Our clinical team has determined that through initial treatment and ongoing dietary maintenance (including no eating of cassava) her pancreas has been able to recover and once more produce the appropriate amount of insulin.
While she was here for follow up, I showed her a picture of herself at her first visit, and she was surprised, saying “I was almost dead then, but now Village Health Works’ has given me back my life.”
By Dr. Melino Ndayizigiye, VHW Clinical Director
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What does 'Back to School' Mean in Kigutu?
At Village Health Works, we’re well aware that education is important in realizing good health. So, when the community invited us to become more involved in education throughout the catchment area, we agreed enthusiastically. We believe education is vital to our mission to improve the health and well being of our community.
Village Health Works is deeply committed to working with the community and developing projects based on their ideas and needs, and our education projects are no different. This week, we held a three-day education conference at our Village Heath Works community center in Kigutu to discuss the ongoing challenges related to education and identify possible solutions. Some participants walked several hours to attend, and excitement buzzed around the campus the first two days as over 170 students, teachers, parents and principals came to our center.
Celebrating International Day of Cooperatives!
International Day of Cooperatives
By Anna Chiu and Claire Inarukundo.
Earlier this year, I traveled to Burundi with my new husband who was going to work in the clinic at VHW. I was determined to come along and help out in some way as well. Coming from a small business and product development background, I wasn’t sure exactly how, but luckily for me, I met Claire on my first day in Kigutu. Claire is the Business Manager of Economic Development at VHW, and has helped organize various women’s cooperatives, many whose members have been victims of gender based violence. In these cooperatives, the women are provided with specialized skills training, employment, and a nurturing and safe environment where they can meet, collaborate, and hone their crafts.
Hope For Healing - Update
Last time I was in Burundi when I was walking through the clinic, Dr. Melino pulled me aside and asked if I wanted to see a particularly troubling patient. When we got to the exam room door he stopped.
Hope For Healing
Iranezereza is the fifth child in her family. She was born on February 15th, 2012. Three weeks after, she developed an abscess on her chest. Her mother took her to an area health clinic where they gave her an IM injection for fever and told her to go back home without the treatment she required.
Baskets & Burundi: Honoring Mother's Day
Originally from Gitega, Gloria joined Village Health Works as a weaving trainer in June of 2011. A single mother, Gloria has been supporting herself and now, her young son, by weaving beautiful baskets since she was 16 years old. Gloria learned her craft from her mother and aunt, secretly at age six. From bracelets to baskets, Gloria’s designs share a respect for tradition and a willingness to experiment. Today, she is excited that her skills will help others improve their conditions.
Village Health Works at Rye Country Day
Village Health Works is very fortunate to have the support of many creative and energetic community members here in New York as well as throughout the US and beyond. One such individual is Meghan, a senior at Rye Country Day School. She and the rest of the VHW club at her school have put together several fun and successful events to spread the word about the great things happening in Kigutu and generate resources to keep the movement growing. Here to tell you more is Meghan herself!
“Two weekends ago, my Village Health Works club at my high school, Rye Country Day, co-hosted a dodgeball tournament.
A Successful Celebration of Hope
On Sunday, April 15, the Upper East Side Women’s Committee hosted “A Family Celebration of Hope” in support of Village Health Works. This fun-filled event took place at the Loeb Central Park Boathouse and featured music, children’s crafts and games. There was face-painting, balloons and also a spirited auction (not to mention fabulous food)!
Photo credit: Jennifer Lewis
The First Dental Care In Kigutu
Last week was a whirlwind. While this is common when I’m in Kigutu, a visit from a team of four Columbia University School of Dental Medicine faculty members added a whole new layer of excitement to the trip.
Individual Experience In Economic Development
When we talk about economic development, often we envision the impact foreign direct investment, business growth, and GDP increases can have on entire states - even regions - at the macro level. At Village Health Works, when we talk about economic development, we can’t help but focus on the small wins. These are the triumphs - successes that are often overlooked because they offer only one number, one data point to present to funders. These are the most important stories and experiences we think are important to share with our supporters around the world.
Healing In A Dignified Environment
Treating malnutrition is a delicate process and requires more than just careful, high-quality nutrition. Malnourished children can face life-long consequences if they’re not kept warm. Mental stagnation can become permanent if they aren’t stimulated.