On the Ground in Burundi: Jodi Mikalachki


Thursday
Jul242014

ON THE GROUND IN BURUNDI COMING TO A GRACIOUS ENDING

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.

In Christ,

Jodi

 

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.

Monday
Oct072013

A Letter from Jodi (Oct. 5th, 2013)

Dear Family and Friends,

Another school year has begun in Burundi, and the students we're sponsoring are moving forward: two in university, five in senior high school, and two in junior high. Please take a look at my latest blog posting to read about how three of our senior high students are doing in their new schools:www.onthegroundinburundi.org.

I've recovered well from my thyroid surgery three months ago. My voice is getting stronger, and I'm back teaching at the University of Burundi, where I'm finally able to offer the American Literature course that was postponed back in May because of student strikes. It's fascinating to hear how Burundian students respond to such 19th-century American classics as "Rip Van Winkle," "Young Goodman Brown," and "Little Women" -- the surprise favorite in a class made up largely of young men. 

I hope you're well also, and would love to hear your news. 

With warm love from the heart of Africa,

Jodi

Wednesday
May222013

A Letter from Jodi (May 22 2013)

Dear Family and Friends, 

I've just posted to my blog about trying to teach an American literature course at the University of Burundi. I want to teach it, the students want to take it, and we've even figured out a way to make readings available to them in the general absence of books. And still . . . 

To find out more, please go to www.onthegroundinburundi.org, where you'll see me engaging with students in a University of Burundi classroom and outside under a tree on their beautiful and impoverished campus. 

Much love,

Jodi

Wednesday
May222013

A Letter from Jodi (May 2 2013)

Dear Family and Friends, 

I've just posted to my blog (www.onthegroundinburundi.org) about a reconciliation we've been able to help facilitate in the family of one of the students we're sponsoring. She's a bright, talented girl I taught upcountry, and for the last couple of years, her father has been beating her severely enough to rouse the concern of his rural neighbors and extended family. Bringing her to Bujumbura for senior high school was partly in response to this home situation. You'll see in the post how things worked out during a long meeting we held yesterday between father and daughter, supported by other community members. I am deeply grateful for what I think this meeting accomplished, and the possibilities it opens for transforming a whole family dynamic. 

In my own news, my State Department English Language Fellowship has been renewed for a second year, which allows me to keep supporting myself by working in education here as we develop our vision and network for On the Ground in Burundi. I now have several Burundians advising me, and you'll read in my blog post about the help we got yesterday from a senior pastor in the Quaker church, who mediated the father-daughter meeting with tremendous skill and warmth. I hope that you're well and finally getting some good weather in the U.S. and Canada. I'm holding Boston in my heart as I follow the sad developments of the marathon bombing. At the same time, it's great to see how generously people have contributed to helping the victims. We can do terrible things, and we can do wonderful things as human beings. Let's keep choosing wonderful. 

Much love, 

Jodi

Monday
May212012

Jodi Mikalachki's blog 

Monday
Oct312011

A Letter from Jodi (November 2011)

I'd like to tell you a bit about the main road that links Gitega, Burundi's second largest city and center for some branches of national government, and Ngozi, the country's third largest city and my provincial town, a bumpy forty-five minute drive from where I live at Burasira. This is the road whose widening and paving will soon be underway. Much as I long for a good paved road between me and any other destination in Burundi, I'm conscious that something will be lost when the old dirt road lies under asphalt. Old roads carry stories. Some of this road's stories have been told to me. Others I intuit as I walk along it, glimpsing signs of what this region went through before I came here, and the changes it's undergoing now.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Oct062011

A Letter from Jodi (October 2011)

I recently visited Bishop Sixbert Macumi of the Anglican Diocese of Buye in northern Burundi. We had a wonderful meeting, during which Bishop Sixbert shared with me his understanding about partnership. He said it's about learning to know one another, learning about the world, learning about how we can pray for one another. He illustrated this with a Burundian proverb: Umwana atagenda yibaza ko nyina wiwe ariwe azi guteka. (The child who has not traveled thinks that only its own mother knows how to cook.)

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Sep132011

A Letter from Jodi (September 2011)

During my time in the US and Canada, I founded a charitable organization called ON THE GROUND IN BURUNDI to support education and grassroots community development in rural Burundi. Its purpose is to raise awareness in North America about the struggles and great potential of rural Burundi, and to engage North Americans and Burundians alike in developing a rural community finding its feet after decades of war, injustice, and extreme poverty. ON THE GROUND IN BURUNDI is incorporated in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and has applied for status as a 501(c)3 charitable organization. We have five excellent board members, and the support of St. James's Episcopal Church in Cambridge, MA, and St. Anne's Anglican Church in London, Ontario.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Apr272011

Update from Jodi, April 2011

The News from Nyangungu: Final Report

Dear Family and Friends,

I've been looking over the letters I've written to you over the last three years, and thought I'd give you some updates on those I've written about before I fly out of Bujumbura tomorrow evening

Click to read more ...

Friday
Oct302009

Update from Jodi, late October 2009

Dear Family and Friends,  

I've had several responses to my recent letter from people who would like to know how to offer some financial support to our students. Others among you have written before, wanting to know how you might make a contribution to the Hope School. Thank you to all who have written, and to all who hold us in their hearts.  

Click to read more ...