Growing up in Burundi in the 1980s, Bienvenu Nkurunziza knew only war, suffering and heartache. However, he has risen above all of that to become a “star in the darkness” in his country’s government administration.
By the time Bienvenu was 11 both his parents had died, leaving him to take care of his younger brothers and sister. Everything changed when they were admitted into an SOS Children’s Villages emergency programme, which later became the SOS Children’s Village Muyinga.
“I will never forget how a new family made up of children from many different parts of the country was formed in a few days, with such a strong bond developing with our SOS mother,” is how Bienvenu remembers those early days.
As a young boy in the SOS Children’s Village Muyinga, Burundi. Photographer: SOS Archives
Eager to use the opportunities provided by SOS Children’s Villages, Bienvenu studied hard. It paid off when he was appointed administrative and financial controller at SOS Children’s Village Cibitoke. There he gained enough experience to help him move on to a better job in the national government.
Bienvenu made such an impression on his superiors, that he was promoted from one job to the other in quick succession. By 2015 he was senior manager in charge of purchases in the Burundi Revenue Authority, with 800 government officials to keep happy. Soon he was asked to train 12 co-workers to do the same job and now acts as their supervisor. With corruption rife in the Burundi government, this position is only entrusted to someone with a proven record of honesty and integrity.
His siblings still rely on Bienvenu to support them – a task he fulfils with pleasure. He says he has to help them secure the best possible future as SOS Children’s Villages has done for him.
In 2015, Bienvenu also began a small income generating project that not only benefits him, but two rural families. Starting with six goats, the project involves raising and selling goats as they multiply. With his profits, Bienvenue hopes to extend the project to more families.
“In a country where public services are gangrenous with corruption, Bienvenu is a star in the darkness. His honesty, diligence, punctuality, integrity and gratitude is an example to others. He is a role model for the children of SOS Children’s Villages.”
Mr Louis Rwasa, Village Director SOS Children’s Village Muyinga.