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HN 25 | Heroes of Transformation: Meet Biregeya Gerard

WRITTEN BY:  MIKE PRINS
INTERVIEW BY:  KAREN KOSTER


At some point in our childhood, we realize that the superheroes we see on screen and read about in comics are just fiction. Can any one person have such incredible abilities and be of such noble character, making an extraordinary difference in ordinary people’s lives each day? 

Consider the people who have made a difference in your life. A teacher who took extra time with you? A coach who saw your potential? A youth pastor who listened? For those living in  many FH partnered  communities, it’s the local FH staff who move into their towns, build relationships, and spend years communicating a message of positive solutions and hope who make all the difference. They may not be able to “leap tall buildings in a single bound,” but they’re there, day-in-and-day-out, walking with leaders, churches, and families as they strive to overcome poverty. 


And to the families in Kabarore, Burundi, they’re better than the guys in tights. They’re the real heroes.



Karen Koster: How long you have worked with FH and what other positions have you had?

Biregeya Gerard: I have worked with FH Burundi for [over] seven years. I have been a Care Group Supervisor, then a Multisector Promoter, and up to now, I am the Livelihood Officer.

As a Livelihood Officer, my role is providing technical expertise on agricultural and economic empowerment for the community and delivering appropriate, sustainable, and environmentally friendly interventions that meet the needs of families in the community.

KK: Tell us a bit about yourself, your family, and where you come from?

BG: I am 51 years old. I was born in a family of nine children—six girls and three boys. I am the sixth. We are seven still alive and I am the only boy; my two brothers passed away at an early age and my parents [passed] at the older age of 70 and 80.

My hometown is Cankuzo, in eastern Burundi. It was a small center with few people but nowadays it is getting wide, perhaps because of its cool climate with cheap plots. But [for] now I live in Kabarore. It is at 188 km from where I grew up and where my wife and children stay.

I am married to Fabiola since September 2010. She is a teacher. We have two daughters—Shekinah, six years old, and Sheila, four years old. They are children who ask clever questions. In my personal time I like to play guitar and sing Christian songs. I also like to ride a sport bicycle.

KK: What lead you into community development work?

BG: I finished one year of Burundi National University, and later completed a degree in Social Work from Newman Institute of Social Work of Tanzania. From 1994, I started to work in a refugee camp as a supervisor to community health mobilizers’ supervisor with Doctors Without Borders, and also with the International Rescue Committee. There, I got experience working with vulnerable people.

KK: What does a typical work day look like for you?

BG: I start the day at 7:30 with a half hour devotion with my colleagues, and do office work up to 9:00. I eat brunch, then take an FH motorcycle into the community. At noon, I start home visits, normally to about five households. Next are  meetings or training with volunteers, model farmers, church leaders, community leaders, or saving group members. I later return to the office and go home at 4:30.


KK: What are some of your most memorable stories?

BG: At Ryamukona community, I was launching Cascade [health] Groups and I heard one of the leaders asking her peers to contribute money so as to provide me with food and lemonade every time I go there. I asked her why she made such a suggestion. She replied that FH is the first NGO to work in their community when other NGOs would not because of difficult accessibility. She wanted to encourage me to continue supporting their community. I thanked her and explained to her that my family needs are met and that FH sent me to serve the community and not to be served.


Gerard's days are filled with people. His passion to help and his humble charisma is impacting
hundreds of lives in Kabarore as he coaches community leaders, farmers, and savings group members.

Another time I was sent to Kibuba community to start Savings and Loans Groups, which emphasize women participation. There was a general belief that a woman cannot keep money. A woman who was caught by her husband with some money could be accused that she got it by prostitution. Many women were victims of such a wrong belief. One young woman named Sarah told me that her husband had forbidden her to keep even one franc (less than a penny). She said that through the educational meetings I conducted for everyone in the community, her husband started allowing her to save money for medical needs and groceries such as salt, cooking oil, onion, and so on. She is a savings group committee member now.

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Food for the Hungry: HN 25 | Heroes of Transformation: Meet Biregeya Gerard
HN 25 | Heroes of Transformation: Meet Biregeya Gerard
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Food for the Hungry
https://blog.fhcanada.org/2019/09/hn-25-heroes-of-transformation-meet.html
https://blog.fhcanada.org/
https://blog.fhcanada.org/
https://blog.fhcanada.org/2019/09/hn-25-heroes-of-transformation-meet.html
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