Funded in part by a Missions Grant from St. James's, Jodi Mikalachki has been working in Burundi, a small nation neighboring Rwanda in southeast Africa, on behalf of the higher education of girls and of Twa children - a persecuted minority in that country - in one way or another since 2008. Beginning in 2011, she founded On the Ground in Burundi to pursue these goals, and St. James's members Liz McNerney and Jennifer Schley Johnson were among those on the board of that organization. Now, as Jodi moves to take a new position with the Mennonite Central Committee in Kenya, she writes:
"I'm writing officially to inform the Missions Committee that, after three years of service to students and teachers in Burundi, we have decided to close down On the Ground in Burundi. As you know, I will be moving to Kenya to begin a new assignment with the Mennonite Central Committee in July, and it didn't seem possible for us to continue without my oversight, "on the ground," in Burundi.
On behalf of the board and our beneficiaries, I'd like to thank St. James's for your generous annual support of our work since 2011. We have used it to pay tuition, board, uniforms, supplies and travel expenses for six high school students (five girls and one Twa boy), all of whom are boarding away from home. We will leave enough money in Burundi to pay for them to complete their current cycle of studies (junior high school for two of the girls, and senior high school for the other four). We are arranging now with a religious order who will manage these funds for us over the next two years. Please keep them - Aline, Bélise, Claude, Diane, Gertrude, and Thérèse - in your prayers.
None of these students, who are all from poor rural families, would have been able to continue their studies without our support. Thank you for making it possible for them to continue to develop and equip themselves to serve their country.
We will also be distributing our capital before leaving Burundi. Our main contribution will be to Lycée Bududira, a new boarding school for girls that opened this year in Bururi, a small town in southern Burundi, near the Monastery at Buta that I've written about on my blog. The school is owned and run by a women's religious order, the Disciples of Christ, which is known for its high standard of education. The principal, Sr. Marie-Goretti Nizigiyimana, has a doctorate in philosophy from St. Thomas Aquinas University in Rome, and stepped down from her position as General Secretary of the National Office of Catholic Education in Burundi to found the school. She is an experienced education administrator, and a serious intellectual who continues to teach philosophy part-time at universities and seminaries in Burundi. I have known her since 2009, and have a great regard for her personal integrity and judgment. She has been one of my main advisors in Burundi, particularly on the complex question of how to support the education of adolescent girls in a post-conflict country.
Lycée Bududira is one of two senior high schools pioneering a program in social work. The program trains students in theoretical and practical social work, including courses in sociology, law and human rights, psychology, languages, nutrition and cooking, and accounting and other office skills. It is a four-year program following junior high school. Graduates will be qualified social workers, and may work in the court system, hospitals, schools, other government services, and NGOs. Lycée Bududira has already found it to be a popular major. The head of this program at the school (who is also the superior of their religious order) has a doctorate in sociology, and so is well-qualified to develop the program and mentor its teachers and students.
On the Ground in Burundi is granting our major remaining capital to Lycée Bududira to build a teaching kitchen to support courses in cooking and nutrition, and to prepare meals for the boarders, who will grow by one class a year. We are also funding a laundry as part of the kitchen building, along with a store room and lodging for the cook.
We are very glad to be able to support the development of Lycée Bududira and its social work program, which is providing excellent, job-related training to girls who will then be able to work for the development of their region and the country. This is the kind of project we had hoped to undertake ourselves, and so it seems fitting to leave our capital in the capable hands of the Disciples of Christ.
In closing, may I express my deep personal thanks to the Missions Committee and the whole parish for the wonderful support you have offered me in so many ways as a missionary since 2008. May God richly reward you for all you have done to encourage me in my vocation, and to encourage young people in Burundi.
We wish Jodi well as she departs for Kenya, and we also thank Liz and Jennifer for helping to make this work of hope and reconciliation possible in Burundi. God's time is the best time, and the time has come to bringOn the Ground in Burundi to an end. I have invited Jodi, however, to continue her blog from Africa on our Outreach page on the St. James's website under "On the Ground in Burundi" until she has a new title for her new mission in Kenya, as we have much still to learn from her experiences as we have been learning throughout her time as Executive Director of On the Ground in Burundi.