December 23, 2013



By Elysé Ndayihimbaze

While coordinating a two weeks training of trainers in the UNDP funded rural entrepreneurs project, the SPARK team came across Ntahimpera Fabien, a trainer in the soap making sector during a half an hour discussion in which he opened up to his trainees. To their surprise, he shared how he too was a returnee and that he learned to make soap in the year 2003 inside a refugee camp.  As the conversation went on, he expressed how for him the most challenging of being a refugee was that he could not have a dream which went beyond the refugee camp.

Nitunga Pascaline, one of his trainees and an equally determined woman shared that she also attended a soap making training in a Tanzanian refugee camp. While looking for ways to profit from the training, she ventured outside the refugee camp and when the authorities discovered her departure, she was caught and jailed. Despite the fact that she was six months pregnant, she endured life in jail for three weeks. Thereafter she returned to the camp and learnt to settle like her peers.

As each trainee shared their experience, words of encouragement from Fabien followed suit and after all had been spoken he concluded the discussion, “I have trained over seven associations how to make soap and through this I have been able to take care of my family; I wish the same for you. The way organizations like SPARK, BBIN and UNDP have trusted me to train you today is the same way you will be trusted tomorrow. Go and train others, educate others. So that as many people as can be reached may live in good health and have a source of income.”

 Ntahimpera Fabien handing out exam resultsSPARK Country manager handing out Certificates

Over the two weeks of training in Bururi, Makamba and Rutana, the conversation led by the beneficiaries grew from, “help…” to, “this is how you can help me because I can do this much for myself.” The returnees grew in confidence and the best sign of progress was watching them learn twice by teaching what they had been taught in a 15 minutes how to make soap challenge. A final exam on the last day of training saw them walk away with soap bars for their families following a practical test and then certificates were awarded after the announcement that all trainees had passed the written test.

In total, 237 participants gained skills in work ranging from Carpentry, juice production, catering, vehicle, motorbike and bicycle repair, production of soap, sewing, production of enriched flour, extraction and production of palm oil and baking. Over the last 6 months, 400 jobs have been created by the project.

* Elysé Ndayihimbaze is the Program Officer for SPARK Burundi


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