Overwhelmed-in-Burundi

Baron Anyangwe

Overwhelmed-in-Burundi

Far from the coziness of my £1,000 seat on the trading floor of an investment company watching multiple blinking screens, or even before that, the vast amount of access to knowledge and resources I had at a Big 4 firm, I now feel like I’m a shrimp on a plank in the middle of the ocean (why shrimp? I don’t know – it sounded better than fish…).

With no one I can turn to for instant support, and with intermittent access to internet and electricity (we have power cuts mid-morning for about 4 hours everyday), I can’t even turn to trusted Google to find out answers to my queries. And yet, all eyes are fixed on me to provide direction and guidance.

Where do I start? With so much to do (or at least so much that I’ve tasked myself to do), one would say just start somewhere and go from there. But even what I consider to be the simplest of things tends to reveal more issues which show just how much more there is to do before task 1 can be achieved.

Everything seems to sap energy out of me; the hot weather, the thought of work, and the fleeting time. I left London on May 10th as a volunteer accountant to come to Burundi to work for two small grassroots organisations for 1 month in order to build their financial management capacity. 1 month working for 2 organisations = 2 weeks each = 10 work days each. Take out 3 work days to complete an organisation review, 1 day attending a celebration up-country, plus Burundian timing, and you’re left with a mammoth task if you’re about as ambitious as me who thinks if Rome wasn’t built in a day then the workers weren’t trying hard enough!

Yet, my hosts still show so much appreciation for the little I do. And when I look at the end beneficiaries of the completed projects, and how their lives are transformed by the selfless work of the employees of the small organisation, I can’t help but think that I should be the one showing appreciation for what THEY do.

Being out here really puts things into perspective. And when I see a group of people running down the hill, singing and chanting as they keep fit, or watch little kids chase each other in the dust, or hear 3 languages in one sentence, I realise it’s the simple things that will make this experience one of my most memorable experiences.

About the author:

Baron is currently working as a volunteer accountant for AfID (Accounting for International Development) for 1 month in Burundi, in partnership with two small community-based organisations – Friends Women’s Association (FWA), and Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC). His mission is to help build the financial management capacity of these organisations by providing impartial, non-judgemental support to the local staff on financial matters such as budget preparation and analysis, the review and implementation of controls, internal and external reporting, the creation of financial procedures manuals, and audit preparation.

Baron is updating a blog during his time in Burundi: http://baronblogsburundi.wordpress.com

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