If you are a regular reader of THE SOCIAL COFFEE blog, you have already learned a lot of different things about Burundi's culture and traditions from Keke, our Social Burundi Reporter. Burundi is the country where coffee meets Bean United's social impact and where two of the projects our impact funding supports are located - the school meals program and the Embrace house.
Traveling to Burundi
In a more classical sense, Burundi is attractive to tourists due to its scenic landscape including stunning hills and lakes, such as Lake Tanganyika, the existing wildlife and natural parks and its cultural richness including historical architectural sites.
However, the purpose of this blog is to go beyond the classical "attractions"- part of our mission at Bean United is to be close to the projects we work with and to gain first-hand insight into the developments in Burundi. It is for this reason that team members travel to Burundi regularly. Before sharing more about these visits, we asked Keke about her assessment regarding traveling to her home country.
Keke, what is good to know when traveling to Burundi?
"First of all, Burundi is a beautiful and generally peaceful country. When it comes to visiting Burundi, it is a very nice place to travel to. Do you know why? Because the Burundian people love seeing visitors. To this day, it is possible to knock on someone's door even though you don't know each other and ask for water or food when traveling. So...I think that Burundi is a really nice country to travel to. Also, there is infrastructure to help tourists, such as agencies to help you with hotels or restaurants. Burundians are loving people with smiles on their faces."
In the past few years, Bean United founder Thomas visited Burundi twice. So, we asked him to share more about his visits on the blog
Thomas, can you break down your experiences of traveling to Burundi?
"I had previousle heard from another startup that their experience in Burundi was very stressful - with many people surrounding them and them not feeling comfortable. My experiences were compleatly different: The people in Burundi are increadibly war, lively and happy. With a few words of Kirundi - the country's language - you can bring a smile to everyone's face and receive very open and joyful reactions. This allowed me to bridge the language gap a little bit and to create emotional connections at any time."
How did you build a network in Burundi?
"Thanks to the support from local contacts in the coffee industry and our social project with the Welthungerhilfe, we were able to engage in dialogues with individuals and learn more about their lives. It is crucial to remain open, to express respect and sympathy. This has always been very important to me, and also to my colleague Benni who traveled with me in June last year. And the, of course, there are very special people we have gotten to know over the years: Marieke and her social project Embrace, with very special kids like Kenny, Bukuru and Matthias. Also, there is Keke, a fantastic young woman who is a singer and whom you already know through our blog. And also, there is Leopold, the headmaster of our partner school in northern Burundi."
Can you share your most impactful and special moments?
"Sure! There were moments like going for a run in the hills of northern Burundi and spontaneously helping two young men who were panting and pushing their heavily loaded bycycles up a hill. And then there was the soccer game at a school in Kirundo, where we support the school meal program. Benni and I got to play soccer with the kids for 60 minutes- the whole school watched and cheered enthusiastically. We were just one of 22 players on the field. An unforgettable experience for everyone!"
The Bean United team values the network of special individuals we have met in Burundi and is very grateful for the time we get to spend there and the experiences we gather and that further support our dedication to our mission.