August 2012 - September 2015
“I’ve worked for AVSI since 2004 and, in my experience with the children from the MEO Lino Lava Center, I’ve been able to understand that education is the introduction to a total reality, [...] and I’ve been able to experiment that [...] the purpose of education is that of forming a new man who is able to react and interact with others with liberty and joy.”
CHRISTINE NIYOKINDI, Head of the MEO Lino Lava Center
For more than 40 years (1962-2003) Burundi sustained a bloody civil war.
In 2012, the UNDP Index of Human Development positioned Burundi at 178 out of 187 countries.
In the aftermaths of the civil war, the situation of general insecurity caused a complete breakdown of family, social and community infrastructures. The living conditions of the population were worsened by the inadequate health, education and psycho-social assistance needed to treat the severely traumatized population.
Today, despite a major shift towards political stability, strong tensions still exist, mainly due to past ethnic conflicts.
One of the areas that was most severely affected by the conflict was the district of Cibitoke in the suburbs of Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi.
In 2002, in the midst of the civil war, AVSI arrived in Cibitoke and established the MEO Community Center for Children, Mothers and War Orphans (Mamans, Orphelins et Enfants).
The Center started its work during a period of strong post-conflict instability. This period was characterized by great urban decay and high levels of overpopulation due to the massive influx of Burundian refugees fleeing to the capital to escape ethnic cleansing.
The MEO Center was founded to meet the need of mothers and children for a shared and protected space where they could find food, health assistance, education and psychological aid.
Thanks to the support of the Comunità Biellese Aiuti Umanitari (CBAU) and the Burundian authorities, the MEO Center has grown over the years and is now located in an improved facility in the district of Cibitoke. The new Center was inaugurated in 2010 and named in honor of the CBAU member Lino Lava who was a great donor for the Center before his death.
AVSI Burundi (click here to read about this project on their site)
Ran by 6 social workers, the Centre now provides a variety of services including psychosocial, educational, recreational and medical care activities for the families and children living in the district.
Psychosocial support activities: House calls by assistants leading to therapy sessions and psychological support groups at the Center, as well as Working groups with social workers; check-ups with social workers at local schools to monitor children’s progress; awareness training for families covering personal rights, domestic violence, the value of family, peaceful resolution of conflicts and the likes; legal aid for children suffering serious repercussions from violation of their human rights.
Educational and recreational activities: Library made available, managed with instruction from social workers; group therapy through Play Therapy; dancing and singing courses, drumming lessons and movie discussion forum.
Medical Care activities: Medicine and transportation payment coverage for children and their family/caretakers in need of immediate medical attention, as well as distribution of medical supplies and provision of emergency care.
The MEO Center provides tailor-made assistance to each person who enters it. Up until now, the Center has improved the psychosocial health, education and quality of life of 416 children. If you consider their relatives, the number of beneficiaries is around 2,912. The Center has contributed to strengthen the overall capacity of families, caretakers and local organizations to respond to the children’s needs.
In the last trimester of 2012, social workers carried out almost two hundred home visits to assess family members’ psychosocial conditions and to provide the necessary support. Following these interventions, counseling was provided to a dozen people and, in some cases, psychological consultations, group therapy and juridical assistance were also provided.
Through these activities, the children are given the opportunity of acquiring new perspectives on their daily reality, thereby arming them with the tools they will need to confront the challenges they will inevitably encounter as they grow into adulthood.
The Library’s projects and the local sports clubs are among the most popular activities.
During the summer holidays social workers also organized special events, such as sports round-robin tournaments, traditional dance courses, drumming lessons and movie discussion forums. A large number of children, along with their families, engaged in these initiatives.
Drumming lessons were useful in further cultivating the positive aspects of Burundian traditions, by facilitating expression through a system of rules that fosters a sense of community, identity and belonging.
Dancing and singing courses also focused on preserving Burundian traditions, creating team spirit and nurturing self-reliance in children. Movie forums helped raise the children’s awareness on themes such as human rights, education, peace, reconciliation, ending violence and HIV, to name only a few.
Many older boys and girls, former beneficiaries of the Center, helped in organizing some of these activities. Their involvement has been a great demonstration of the positive impact of the MEO Center on the community. Indeed, the Center’s work managed to reinforce the social ties within the community.
Agreements with the local health care facilities (hospital and pharmacy) are in place. Some 180 children have received medical assistance in-house, while 2 beneficiaries were taken to the local hospital.
The project also contributed in establishing confidence, trust and acceptance of medical interventions when needed. Indeed, cultivating trust is essential in order to overcome the social stigma and shame associated with illnesses.