Gushirahamwe abagendana ubumuga n’abatabugendana
(To bring together people with disabilities and those without)
To demonstrate God’s love in action through integration of people with disabilities and advocacy for them in their community through a network of contacts in education, health and government
To change the mindset of the community towards people with disabilities and enable them to participate as equal members of society
To identify and overcome barriers to inclusion and education in the community bringing people together with disabilities and those without
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 in response to this request to set up the work there, the Bethesda Project has continued to develop and to help the church in Muyinga meet some of the needs of people in the region.
The Bethesda Project in 2020
Since the work with people with disabilities started in 2011 there has been a widening of purpose as a result of the ongoing overwhelming level of poverty in the region and political turmoil which has left the country closed to the rest of the world. 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 is growing at a rate of 1 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 Do We Do...
Find the people most in need of help
Provide food, drink, and
Provide access and fund to medical health education care
Meet basic material needs for clothing, bedding and a means to make a living
Bethesda employs two full-time staff, Wilson and Divine who work together with a team of dedicated pastors in their rural churches. Their purpose is to seek out the many sick and disabled people who are hidden away and to identify and address the barriers to their inclusion into society and education. Amongst this hidden population are many people with no access to education or means of making a living, due to physical barriers of disability, neglect, illness and lack of access to healthcare, and basic malnutrition.
Wilson and Divine work with a team of dedicated pastors who bring to their churches those who are in great need. Here, accompanied by provision of food and drink, and Bible teaching, they meet individual families and identify priorities on which to spend their money. Their funds are spent directly on hospital treatment and doctors’ appointments, disability equipment such as wheelchairs, provision of a means to start a small business, or sometimes just bedding and clothing to make comfortable those who are otherwise sleeping on mud floors. In many cases, Wilson and Divine make long journeys to people’s homes, where often disabled people are isolated and neglected, sometimes suffering as a result of local antiquated religious beliefs.
Alongside this healthcare outreach, is the provision of education. There are programs run in association with the local health minister around understanding the treatment of epilepsy which is widespread in the region, as a result of recent devastating malaria epidemics. In 2020, Wilson and Divine have also been proactive in teaching people in the region how to protect themselves as much as possible in the face of the coronavirus epidemic.