PWRDF responds to Journal readers’ concern for Burundian woman

Published May 6, 2009

A front-page story about the plight of Francine Nijimbere, a 26-year-old woman from Burundi, in the May issue of the Anglican Journal has evoked an emotional response from readers, and the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund is working on a plan to help her.

Ms. Nijimbere remarkably survived a knife attack by her brother-in-law but he severed both her arms. After a long recovery in hospital, she journeyed from Mabanda province to Bujumbura to be safer, and there she has been cared for by L’Association pour la Defense des Droits de la Femme/Association for the Defence of the Rights of Women. She told Journal writer Marites Sison, who had traveled to Burundi to report on the work of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, that she needs to find a place to live in the long-term and longs to be reunited with her daughter who is at an SOS Children’s Village 120 km away because she cannot care for her.

Since the story reached subscribers, the Journal and PWRDF have been fielding phone calls from people wanting to help Ms. Nijimbere with some asking how to send money directly to her. “People are really upset. They want to do something and do something now,” said PWRDF communications co-ordinator Kristin Jenkins who says the organization is working on getting Ms. Nijimbere the help she needs, but the situation isn’t quite as straightforward as sending her money, cheques or prosthetic arms from Canada.

Cheryl Curtis, PWRDF executive director, said the staff “have been deeply touched” by the “generous outpourings” from people who read Ms. Nijimbere’s story, but before PWRDF could respond, they had to ask Ms. Nijimbere herself what she wanted. Contacted through the diocese of Bujumbura and the Mothers’ Union, she has said she is interested in obtaining prosthetic arms. “What we’re now working on is the how,” said Ms. Curtis. “The diocese is going to work with us on that — the provision, the measurement, the therapy, follow-ups and (researching) how feasible it is to do that in a good and sustainable way.”

PWRDF’s approach to aid and development is to work with partner organizations on the ground in the area. “We’ve always let the partners tell us what they need. We do not tell them what we are giving them, so that is a philosophical shared value because they don’t want us to tell them what we think needs fixing,” said Ms. Jenkins. In Burundi, PWRDF works with Bujumbura Bishop Pie Ntukamazina, the National Council of Churches of Burundi and the Mothers’ Union. In Ms. Nijimbere’s case, “money will go to the Mothers’ Union and the Mothers’ Union will take care of Francine, as they have been all along,” said Ms. Jenkins. “People are passionately drawn to helping this woman, and we’re trying to do what we can to make it possible using the channels that we have.”

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate (national archbishop) of the Anglican Church of Canada, was in Burundi for the opening of the Mothers’ Union Rehabilitation and Training Centre, also funded by PWRDF. He led a delegation from the Canadian church that went to Burundi in order offer its solidarity to the Anglican Province of Burundi, in particular, the diocese of Bujumbura, and the Burundians as they work to rebuild their country after decades of civil war. Archbishop Hiltz speaks of Ms. Nijimbere as a woman of great courage and deep faith who sings in the Mothers’ Union choir at the cathedral in Bujumbura. “The women in the Mothers’ Union choir received and cared for Francine when she was in a desperate state,” he said.

Ms. Jenkins says another important aspect of working with local partner organizations is that they provide help to many people like Ms. Nijimbere whose stories have not been written. “There are children who are in terrible, terrible need. There are elderly women, women of all stages of life who are the beneficiaries of support through the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund via the Mothers’ Union. They are a tremendous operation. It takes care of women there who are in extreme need,” she says. “(Ms. Nijimbere) is one very poignant example, but there are many others. And they also require our support.”


  • Leigh Anne Williams

    Leigh Anne Williams joined the Anglican Journal in 2008 as a part-time staff writer. She also works as the Canadian correspondent for Publishers Weekly, a New York-based trade magazine for the book publishing. Prior to this, Williams worked as a reporter for the Canadian bureau of TIME Magazine, news editor of Quill & Quire, and a copy editor at The Halifax Herald, The Globe and Mail and The Bay Street Bull.

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