Chantal: "I heard knocking at our door. It was FXB"
Chantal, now 40 years old, was born into a farming family in Matongo, northern Burundi. She is the eleventh of twelve siblings. Due to insufficient economic means, Chantal was not able to study. She helped her parents with household chores and field work, including ploughing, which she enjoyed. At the age of 15, she moved to Bujumbura to look for work.
It was then that she met a boy named Barthélémy, whom she had met on a bus. One thing led to another, the young lovers ended up living together in a common-law relationship, or illegally. Their life together was difficult as money was scarce and the girl showed little maturity. She soon became pregnant and was unable to work.
Chantal did not inform her family of her “marriage” and they anxiously awaited her return. Nor did Barthélémy with his own.
Despite their difficulties, Barthélémy and Chantal stood firm and courageously continued their life together. Their union produced seven children over the years: five girls and two boys. As the family grew, the parents found it increasingly difficult to provide for them. Without land to cultivate, without livestock, the family plunged into an inescapable spiral of misery.
“I heard knocking at our door”
The children ate only one meal a day, and one of them, aged 4, showed signs of severe malnutrition. Two others had had to drop out of school because the couple was unable to pay their school fees. When they left the house, they never closed behind them: what was the point, there was nothing to steal! Without any sleeping equipment, they all slept in the clothes they had worn during the day. The children regularly fell ill and, since they didn’t have access to health care, took a long time to heal.
“As God never abandons his creatures, it was in April 2017 that I heard knocking at our door. It was the FXB staff. Unable to understand why they were here, my first reaction was fear. But seeing that they were accompanied by our local chief, I felt reassured. I answered all their questions in a transparent way. A month later, FXB informed me that our family had been chosen to be taken care of under their new FXBVillage program. It was a miracle for us to hear that there was someone who was thinking of us in these difficult times. FXB started by contributing to my children’s school fees and those who had dropped out of school were reintegrated into the school system.”
By her own admission, Chantal finds it hard to find the words to express her gratitude to FXB and her satisfaction following their various interventions. They taught her a lot and gave her the tools to save her family not only from misery but also from the marginalization and isolation in which they found themselves. Indeed, extreme poverty ends up creating a void around you. For a long time, Chantal and Barthélémy didn’t receive any invitations to family celebrations or social and community gatherings.
“The nutritional kit gave us back the strength to work, the children grew and became healthier and the capital allowed me to keep food in my household in sufficient quantity and quality. Thanks to the medical support provided by FXB, my family received access to health care and all my children are now in school thanks to the organization’s educational support.”
In order to support themselves and become economically independent, the couple was able to develop an “income-generating activity” in agriculture and market gardening, growing a variety of crops such as rice, cassava, sweet potatoes, beans and tomatoes, as well as cabbage, eggplant, leeks, amaranths and much more. Thanks to the seed capital provided by FXB and the profits generated by these crops, they also started to operate a small restaurant, which offers stews in the evenings. And they’re also raising pigs.
From poverty to entrepreneurship
Thanks to all the income from these activities, Chantal now has 600,000 Burundian francs in her bank account, in addition to the savings she contributes as a member of a community savings group.
After floods destroyed her home, Chantal was able to count on FXB, supported by its donors, to rebuild another, more solid and salubrious house for the whole family.
Chantal and Barthélémy’s union is now regularized at the registry office, along with all their children who continue to attend primary or secondary school.
Housing, work, education, health, hygiene: from all points of view, Chantal and Barthélémy’s family now lives in good conditions. Now able to look to the future with confidence, Chantal swears that she will never return to poverty. She thanks FXB, as well as the Roi Baudouin Foundation and the Arcanum Foundation – and prays that donors will continue to help FXB in its program to support the most destitute families in Burundi.
“God bless the teams of FXB Burundi, FXB International and donor partners!”