August 2019 Update

Carol’s back in Buja!

I’ll keep this short — all previous updates are retained below, for anyone who wants to find out more about this Burundian student’s very ambitious community service project.

In short, it looks like Umwizero might launch another fundraising campaign soon. Four apprentices with two sewing machines has turned out to be more difficult than expected, and so their training has taken longer than expected. Another challenge is that Jean de Dieu’s father has been volunteering time away from his work in order to train the apprentices, while Jean de Dieu is studying away from Mutumba.

Finally, there has been a lot of interest in the project from other young people in the neighborhood who still struggle to stay off the street and don’t have any means for supporting themselves. Jean de Dieu, his father, and I are considering finding a way to take on new apprentices once this cohort graduates.

So stay tuned for Umwizero II!

In the meantime, one US dollar goes a long way in rural Burundi — so even small donations help keep the apprentices supplied with needles and thread, and cloth to practice on. Please feel free to make even the tiniest donation at this link:

Thank you SO much to everyone who has supported us! A video of the apprentices themselves, explaining how the project has helped them, is coming to YouTube/Facebook soon.

Here are some pictures from my visit to Mutumba this past weekend. The apprentices are all wearing clothes they tailored themselves.

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Background and Previous Updates:

“Umwizero” means “hope” in Kirundi, the native and official language of Burundi.

Since January 2018, I have been teaching English and leading liberal arts seminars at Tujenge Africa Foundation’s Scholars Program in Bujumbura, Burundi.

Each student is required to do an independent community service project, inspired by and modeled after the Girl Scouts’ Gold Award projects and the Boy Scouts’ Eagle projects. And each student is assigned an advisor from the organization’s staff. One of my advisees is a talented and creative student and professional tailor named Jean de Dieu Ndayishimiye.

I have been helping Jean de Dieu raise money for his project, in which he aspires to provide tailoring apprenticeships to two or three young Burundians who are living on the streets in his hometown of Mutumba. It is an ambitious project, but one that I think he can achieve through his own determination, his tailoring expertise, and the love and support of our friends and family members.

On October 25, 2018, thanks to so many generous friends and supporters, we reached our original goal for two apprenticeships! Thank you so much!

As Jean de Dieu recruited and interviewed candidates in January 2019, he decided to take on an additional two apprentices – he didn’t have the heart to turn so many away!

So we will be trying to raise a little extra money – $230 – for basic supplies so that two more street youth can learn a livelihood.

Here’s how you can help:

If you are interested in contributing to this ambitious project, please feel free to make even the tiniest donation at this link:

As his advisor and the financial manager for this project, I will ensure that your donation reaches Jean de Dieu. I will disable the link above once Umwizero has completed its mission in the summer of 2019 [August 2019 update: in the hopes of continuing the project for new apprentices, I am leaving the link active for now].


Jean de Dieu and Carol – both wearing shirts tailored by Jean de Dieu

A brief description of the project:

Tailoring in Burundi is a highly skilled profession. Unlike in the US, most people in Burundi go to tailors to have their clothes made. So tailoring requires a lot of training, and aspiring tailors must undergo an expensive apprenticeship. Once the skill has been mastered, tailoring is a livelihood that provides a measure of economic stability for that individual. In the absence of such stability, the desperate situation of young Burundians has, it has been shown, compelled them to beg on the streets; join armed groups; or engage in other unlawful or dangerous activity.

Jean de Dieu’s goal is to use his tailoring skills to break down some of those barriers to a secure livelihood for these young people, who are left to fend for themselves on the street.

How you can stay updated:

On our Facebook page, we will post photos and news about Jean de Dieu and his project so that you can see your donation at work. No overhead, no administrative costs – every penny will go straight to the materials needed for Jean de Dieu to volunteer his time to teach these street youth a valuable trade. For him, this will be six months of unpaid labor: donations only go to material necessities such as sewing machines, thread, scissors, and six months’ rental of a tailoring studio space (see budget below for more details).

Project Proposal and Financials:

In the interest of transparency, I would like to provide a downloadable version of Jean de Dieu’s original community service project proposal and budget (see links below).

I will keep this page and the Facebook page updated as often as I can as to how much money has been raised and how far along the project itself is. We are shooting for three apprentices, but that will depend on how well fundraising goes from now until December (see budget document below, which includes a timeline).

February 2019 update:

Jean de Dieu decided that two students can work on one sewing machine to learn skills, and took on two additional apprentices. He had so many applicants, he didn’t want to turn anyone away!

Jean de Dieu still needs funds for basic materials, so we are looking to raise an additional $230 for Umwizero – please donate here:


Above, applicants for Umwizero take an entrance exam designed by Jean de Dieu
December 2018

Previous Updates:

10-06-18 Update: Jean de Dieu and I went to Mutumba to find and put a downpayment on a studio to rent. You can watch a little video of that trip here!

10-25-18 Update: Jean de Dieu has decided to move forward with the project and do two apprenticeships rather than spend more time on intensive fundraising to do three (please see Budget below). He is committed to his studies until December, and he and I will buy supplies here in Bujumbura in November/December and bring them to Mutumba; and he will begin the apprenticeships in December or January, when he is no longer constrained by his current school schedule (please see the budget narrative and itemization document below if you would like more details).

As of October 25, 2018, we have raised: $792.38 – enough for two apprenticeships, with almost $4 to spare!

11-09-18 Update: Tomorrow, we go into town to buy the sewing machines and schlep them down to Mutumba – so there will be another little video to look forward to soon!  🙂

We will do our best to keep this page as well as the Facebook page updated with our progress at each step along the way.

Many thanks to all of you who have supported us!


Download project proposal: 08-03-18 Jean de Dieu Final Proposal

Download budget narrative and itemization: 09-19-18 Umwizero Budget