This was a trip I have wanted to do for a while and never had the chance due to education. Fortunately, I had some spare time and the money to do it in August 2014.
So on the 4th August 2014 I set off on the long journey to Bujumbura, Burundi journey time: 26 very long hours! I was greeted by Dieudonné upon arrival of Bujumbura and taken to the hotel I would stay in for the first week of my travel, whilst my brother and Dad were there. Once we were settled it was time to meet the children!
It was overwhelming, the excitement of the children, the smiles and welcome they gave us. Never had I expected this, knowing how much they go through every day to survive, these children had the widest smiles, wider than most western children. It was a powerful moment for me to see how genuine they were, there was nothing fake about the way they greeted us. They did not treat us any different because of the colour of our skin or the colour of our hair.
It was very important for me to learn the way of life there, learn about the children and become a part of the community and not be the outsider looking in. I truly valued the change of lifestyle, having to wash clothes by hand, flooding the bathroom because there was no shower curtain, going to bed at 9:30pm because the power went out and they did not turn it back on. It definitely made me realise how easy we have it at home with our washing machines and endless supply of electricity rather than having to rely on generators!
By mid-way through my trip I had spent a lot of time with the kids in the mornings; even with the language barrier it did not stop me from communicating with them. I watched them dance and play, taking part in their games, which they taught me. I spent time telling them how important education is to be able to live their dreams (even if they wanted to be a football player!) In the afternoons I would help Dagmar with updating their social media sites (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) as well as any other odd jobs that needed doing.
On my days off I explored some of the hotels including one that owned chimpanzees, I even managed to get a hug from one, (while everyone else ran away!). Visiting lake Tanganyika to swim (even with the Hippo’s and Crocodiles).
I absolutely loved the time spent out there; I found I had learnt more from the children than I ever imagined I would. They have become like a family to me and I truly believe that one day these children will make a huge impact on African society, through the Youth Engagement Program (YEP). The memories from this trip will never leave me and I truly recommend taking a trip like this to get a better perspective on life as well as helping a worthy cause.
A year on I still miss it, I miss the children and Dieudonné. I have one regret: Not staying for a longer period of time! I am still working with Street Action and doubt that I would ever not support this well deserved charity that help a project so worthy.
This is a trip I would and will definitely do again for much longer than a month!