Monday 7 March 2011

Marguerite "Maggy" Barankitse: "Evil will never have the last word"

“Evil will never have the last word, it is love that prevails”

                                               Melanie, Maggy’s 5th grade teacher

Marguerite "Maggy" Barankitse was witness to an unimaginable event that forever changed her life. On Oct. 24, 1993, Barankitse was working for the Catholic bishop of Ruyigi, in eastern Burundi, Africa, when ethnic Tutsis stormed the bishops residence, killing 72 Hutus. Amid the chaos and confusion, Barankitse managed to save 25 children and, driven by hope, thoughts of peace and a calling straight from God, set out to provide a safe haven for the youngest survivors of unspeakable violence.

What began in 1993 as a home for the 25 orphaned children who survived the attack, Maison Shalom—or "House of Peace"—has grown into a multi-functional service agency helping heal and support 30,000 young people and families.

Only recently emerging from decades of civil war between the Tutsis and Hutus that left 300,000 dead, Burundi is healing. In order to care for the many children affected by the conflict in Burundi, Barankitse and her team operate "children villages." These 500 small houses throughout the country, including in the capital of Bujumbura, provide children the support and nurturing they need by reintegrating them with loving families. Early in 2008, Maison Shalom achieved another goal and opened a hospital in Burundi.

The focus of Barankitse's work and Maison Shalom is to change the lives of children and ultimately better the lives of all Burundians. Based on their successful efforts, the model is now spreading, with outreach and aid to children in Rwanda and the Congo currently underway.

Barankitse began providing food and shelter to 25 children on October 25, 1993, one of the worst days of the Burundi Civil War.With the help of European and Burundian friends she organized a help network that managed to provide care for a growing number of children. In May 1994 the Roman Catholic Bishop of Ruyigi, Bishop Joseph Nduhirubusa agreed to transform a former school into a children's shelter called 'Maison Shalom'.

Her activities expanded to other cities such as Butezi and Gizuru where she opened other children's shelters.

In 2004 an estimated 20,000 children had benefited from her help, either directly or indirectly.

The scope of her action, as well as the fact that she protects all children without consideration of their origin, Tutsi or Hutu, brought her praise from all corners of the world.

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