The Bethesda Project was formed in 2011 out of a partnership between The Kepplewray Trust UK and the Anglican Diocese of Muyinga, Burundi. The Bishop of Muyinga asked us to help in bringing together people who have disabilities with those who do not. Following groundbreaking work by Steve and Lucy who moved to Burundi, the Bethesda Project has continued to develop.
Since the work with people with disabilities started, there has been a widening of purpose due to the overwhelming level of poverty. Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world, with most people living at a subsistence level with long walks to collect water, and 99% of people having no electricity. Recent figures show the population growing at a rate of one person per minute and half of these children are not in school. Amidst this tragic picture, the wonderful work of Bethesda is transforming the lives of people in the region of Muyinga.
What we do...
We travel to rural communities around Muyinga to seek out the many sick and disabled people who are hidden away and to address their needs and barriers to their inclusion into the community and education. We do this by:
Working with pastors and community leaders
Providing access to and funding for medical care
Providing physical aids to enable mobility and access to education
Providing basic health education
Running epilepsy clinics (epilepsy is very common in Burundi due to illnesses such as malaria)
Teaching inclusion (many people with disabilities are often neglected or even rejected)
Running inclusive youth activities
Providing basic material needs for clothing, bedding and a means to make a living
Demonstrating and teaching about the love of God
Two of the Bethesda staff, Wilson and Divine, have also been proactive in teaching people in the region how to protect themselves in the face of the coronavirus epidemic.
Elias was born to a family of 7 children where his cerebral palsy was thought to be a result of evil spirits. He was on the ground, cold, covered in sores and severely malnourished when we met him at his home in January where his mother was farming a small patch of land to feed her children. Divine and Wilson provided some clothing and a matress for Elias and helped his mum to understand his disablity. He died a number of weeks later.
Rebecca, from Ntobwe is 28 and unable to walk. She was confined to her house with no means of making a living. Wilson got to know Rebecca through a local pastor. Having first given her a wheelchair, then provided her with the means to start her own small business by selling rice flour, beans and soap and mentored her in the early days to get the business started. Rebecca is now supporting herself successfully.
In Murama village , Wilson and Divine found Didace moving around on the ground using his back. Bethesda provided a wheelchair for him to enable him to attend school and be an active member of the community.
Gushirahamwe abagendana ubumuga n’abatabugendana
(To bring together people with disabilities and those without)