Sat 4 Jul 2009
Just a quick note, since things here are a bit overwhelming as I try to fit in everything before I head back to the US to start an M.A. in Peace Studies at the Kroc Institute at Notre Dame this fall. I plan to be back here in Burundi next summer though, and I’ll keep the blog going through the year as time permits.
The week before last, I traveled to five communities in the interior of the country to oversee the distribution 150 goats, each goat to a pair of people that will jointly take care of the goat, giving them an excuse to interact more regularly and build relationships.
Now, it’s never too hard to give things away, but doing a good job of giving things away is more tricky. In general, I think the meetings we had beforehand where we discussed the program and opened it up to comment and criticism caught many of the little details we had missed in planning the program.
But you can’t foresee everything. For example, since the goats had to be bought ahead of time, in local markets, some people in the group took on the responsibility of caring for the goats until the time of the distribution. This created problems, however, when one of the women who cared for the goats wanted her choice of goats (and some were already showing signs of pregnancy), while we were trying to ensure a random distribution of goats to keep everyone happy. So for a while the discussion became a bit heated over this little dispute, but we all had a good laugh when we learned the name that had been chosen for the goat they were arguing over was “Amahoro” (“peace”). Then the exact same thing happened in a second community. At first this had me concerned a bit, but as everyone seemed to come to agreement, and with a little perspective looking back, it was really just a minor hitch, and yet at the same time demonstrated how much these little goats can mean to people.
The best part, however, was the glances I caught four or five times throughout the day of pairs people who were not really paying attention to what was going on with the rest of the group. The reason they were distracted though, was at the very heart of the program. They had become so engulfed in getting to know their partner – formerly someone of whom they might be wary – that they were completely absorbed in being with each other. It was quite striking actually, often they would be holding hands, as Burundians do when having a close conversation, and they were really enjoying each others company. If gentle, nurturing relationships like these can grow from the project among many of the participants, it will have been truly worth its while.