Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"Unity, Work, Progress"

The motto of Burundi perfectly sums up my motivation for wanting to go there this summer. Burundi is an area of high ethnic conflict-Burundi has a Hutu/Tutsi population that was swept up in the well publicized Rwandan genocide of 1994 (Burundi sits immediately below Rwanda). Conflict is ongoing but so are the efforts to rebuild and reunite. Being one of the poorest countries in the world means that progress is most likely going to hinge on some outside help. The primary thrust of this trip is to build the remaining three rooms onto a clinic that will gain it government recognition as an approved full clinic. The existing clinic serves some of the poorest residents of Bujumbura, Burundi's capitol city. The mission of the doctors and health care providers behind the project is to provide HIV screening and treatment for women and children with HIV/AIDS. When completed the building will have a small operating and delivery room which will serve the entire community in an ongoing effort to destigmatize those who do suffer from AIDS. Also, with recognition from the Ministry of Health the clinic will be eligible for medical and other products for laboratory grants from the Burundi government. Here is a link to more details regarding the project

I will be traveling to Burundi with my fellow workcampers for four weeks in June and July. We will be staying with host families and working with locals for the entirety of the project.

My work starts today with a massive fundraising effort. Over the next four and a half months I need to raise $4500. This money covers airfare to Burundi, compensation to my host family and the necessary building supplies for the clinic. I need to raise the first $1800 by April 1st.

In my previous post I outline several fundraising incentives for donating. Details are to follow. In the meantime, if you feel inclined to donate to my cause, here are several options for doing so. By the way, The African Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI)is a registered 501 (c)3 not for-profit.

1. Make checks payable to:

Friends Peace Teams/AGLI

1001 Park Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63104-3720
make sure to put my name and "burundi" in the memo section of the check

2. You can also make an online donation by going to Please specify my name, Sarah Tillotson and Burundi when doing so. Online donations are good for up to $200 above and beyond that we ask that you send a check to the address give above.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read through the blog. Please email me with any questions.

I will do my best to add content on the progress of fundtraising, incentives and the country of Burundi.

Mission of the African Great Lakes Initiative

The African Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI) of the Friends Peace Teams (a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization) strengthens, supports, and promotes peace activities at the grassroots level in the Great Lakes region of Africa (Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda). To this end, AGLI responds to requests from local religious and non-governmental organizations that focus on conflict management, peace building, trauma healing, and reconciliation. AGLI sponsors Peace Teams composed of members from local partners and the international community.

An Introduction to the Workcamp

Back-story: This past semester I was introduced to a vibrant woman belonging to the Quaker community. In retirement she has dedicated herself to the peace keeping objectives of a group of workers based in the African Great Lakes area which includes Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Kenya and Congo. The organization has been involved in these high-conflict areas providing, amongst other services, reconciliation workshops to impart local facilitators with resources for rebuilding communities fraught with post-civil war and genocidal issues. My Quaker acquaintance greatly inspired me to take part in the cutting edge work that she and her colleagues were promoting.

My Involvement: After much contemplation and communication with the African Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI) I decided that my time and effort would be best suited to volunteering in Bujumbura, the capitol of Burundi. In the poorest part of the city is an HIV/AIDS clinic for women and children established by a group called Friends of Peace. The community’s need for treatment has outgrown the facility. This summer’s workcamp will involve building an additional wing to the preexisting clinic. I will be living with a host African family and working 6-8 hours a day 6 days a week for 4 weeks assisting the African crew with erecting the much needed facility. I feel strongly about seizing the opportunity to give and facilitate the flow of resources to this effort. Even though the prevalence of AIDS in Africa is much publicized the stigma involved, especially in the ultra-conservative country of Burundi, strangles resources from being allocated to the infected. Part of the clinic’s mission is to broaden its primary care to the surrounding community.

The Need: Part of my commitment to AGLI is the promise to fundraise the necessary resources for the trip. This includes $1800 for airfare from D.C. to Burundi and $3200 for building supplies and compensation to my host family. I will also be collecting 50 LBS of over the counter drugs, children’s clothes, children’s books and school supplies to carry with me.

Fundraising! Here’s where the fun begins. Though I will gladly and appreciatively accept any dollar amount at any time for any reason, along the way I am going to offer donation incentives to make the process even more interesting. I have several ideas so far both are works in progress:

Salt Lake City Marathon Money: Run for Burundi

As part of trying to get fit for the hard physical labor that awaits me in Burundi and in an effort to raise money I have registered to run the Salt Lake City Marathon! This is a first for me and a definite challenge. Training has begun in earnest as I prepare for the big even on April 18th.

· Sign up to donate $1 (for example) for every Marathon Mile I complete. Assuming I finish the entire run your donation to the women and children served by the clinic will be $26.

· If that sounds like a good start but you would like to up the ante I challenge you to challenge me to run the marathon in under 4 hours. If this seemingly insurmountable feat is accomplished you contribute double the Marathon Mile amount-$52.

AGLI has set an initial fundraising deadline of April 1st for the first $1800. They do this to secure the cheapest flights possible to Burundi.

Please check out my blog created specifically for this trip. There you will find more information about the AGLI organization, the country of Burundi, current events stories relating to AIDS in Africa and correspondence about preparation for the trip including a fundraising tally. Once in Africa I will continue to correspond through blog posts to whoever is interested in the day-in day-out operations and experience.