Burundi: Seeing first-hand how sponsorship can make a difference

Child sponsor and World Vision promoter, James, puts Sydney living into perspective after the experience of meeting his sponsored child in Burundi. Since returning, his strong convictions and inspiring journey has prompted three of his friends to sign up and sponsor too.

By James De Botton, Burundi Child Sponsor

Travelling to Burundi was about experiencing a world outside my own and really being grateful for what I have – I get angry at being stuck in traffic, but over there, they don’t have many things at all and they are some of the happiest people on Earth.

Meeting my sponsored child and seeing his reaction

When I met my sponsored child, Vianney, he was really shocked and in disbelief. I asked one of the project managers why and he said because Vianney didn’t think I was real.

“You can only contact him now and again and you don’t really send photos of your family or the sort of life you live, you only tell him about it. So it kind of makes it hard to believe” he said.


         "They do learn geography at school but they don’t know what life is like outside their community, so it makes                our life like a fantasy world. If you put it into perspective; you know about them but do they know about you?" 


The moments that touched and shocked me the most

The biggest thing that stood out to me was how welcoming and accepting the Burundian people were. After arriving in Vianney’s community, people saw me and there were kids and adults all jumping up and down, smiling and pointing at me saying “Mozungu!” which means “white person”.

Another moment was when I received a gift from Vianney’s mother. She had hand-woven me a basket and put peanuts in it.

What shocked me was what I learned at the medical centre. I asked “How many people come here?” They told me that a few thousand people go to the centre every day – “A few thousand people?!” I thought. They can wait hours upon hours.


Learning about their life in comparison to ours


            "They’re very polite and disciplined – I observed that from a very young age, in order for them to survive, they                 have to work together as one. They truly define what a community is." 


I looked at my life; I’d argue about putting my TV show off to go do the dishes or the lawn mowing. Then I saw these kids with their two-month-old sibling tied on their back while they worked. So it was just a huge contrast between our life and the sort of life they have.

Discovering what sponsorship really means

When I was entering the community, a gathering of people were there just to say thank you for everything that I had done. “Thank you for what? I’m only helping Vianney” I said.


            "But I saw firsthand that because I’m sponsoring a child, the benefits are not only received by Vianney but the               whole community through larger projects."


Putting my spending into perspective

I, like most people in Australia, have been privileged to receive an education, have a house over my head and food on the table, so for me I don’t see why I can’t sacrifice a little bit to ensure that other people in the world can have similar opportunities.


            "In Australia, I go to the movies with my girlfriend where it costs me $50 for two student tickets and popcorn                – and that’s for two hours of entertainment. Why not use that money for something that’s actually benefiting              children who need it most? As sponsors, we have all made those choices."


I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned, that we can all make a difference, everyone can. Yes, everybody has their budgets, but it’s just choosing how we spend our money. The smallest of gestures can make a large difference in anyone’s life.

How I encouraged others through my visit

My friends knew what I was doing when I left for Burundi, but when I got back and showed them the photos, they could only make comparisons to the movies. They asked “Is it real? Are there kids in those refugee camps guarded by metal fences?” I said, “That’s very true…


            "…when I was there I saw the United Nations refugee camp, I saw young kids, and infants working in the fields               and fetching water, instead of attending school. All the kids I met and have photos of, they’re very happy and               they’re just like you and I, just in another part of the world.”


Since coming back I’ve had three friends sign up straight away and sponsor children. I’ve encouraged people that if you are in a position where you have the means to assist others it can make a huge difference for those who struggle in the world.

Interested in visiting your sponsored child? Find out more

Receiving a big welcome by the community. Photo provided by James.