My dream is to have a good life

Alphonsine has benefited from a vocational training that changed her life

Jean Sacha Barikumutima
Alphonsine with her son
UNICEF Burundi/2020/Barikumutima
08 April 2020

It's Wednesday. 9 a.m. Alphonsine Ndayikengurukiye, 23 years old is smiling and full of life, getting ready to start her day. Alphonsine is very popular in her village: she is a hairdresser, a saleswoman, a leader, a social entrepreneur and a member of a solidarity group thanks to access to vocational training.

We are the village of Mayengo, in south-western Burundi. The village, which is home to 200 families, was built for climate-displaced people who survived flooding in 2015. The floods destroyed an entire village and claimed hundreds of lives. Today, the survivors living in Mayengo are learning how to build a new life for themselves. Alphonsine is a perfect illustration of this.

"In our village, we had access to training opportunities to develop our skills, we were supported to decide what to do with our lives", says Alphonsine,  "I would like my child to benefit from these and others that  I didn't have” She adds. Alphonsine had to leave school when she was 16 years old, when her father died, and her mother could no longer afford to pay for her schooling.

The following year she was pregnant, by a man who never acknowledged the pregnancy. Rejected by her family, Alphonsine found herself on the street. For a while, a sympathetic neighbor lent her a small room where she lived until it was decimated by floods. "I managed to run and escape death. I was also lucky enough to find another mother in the neighboring village who had agreed to let me live in her goat farm. That's where I gave birth to my son.

Alphonsine at her shop
UNICEF Burundi/2020/Barikumutima

Alphonsine and her son, Brillant, are currently living in the village of Mayengo with her older brother, also a survivor of the floods. There, UNICEF and its partner PEAB have helped her attend vocational training. She has also been mentored through a life skills programme to overcome her trauma and take charge of her life: "We learned how to take charge of ourselves. I didn't know how to deal with my emotions either, now I know that it is important to rely on each other" she says.

Alphonsine at her garden
UNICEF Burundi/2020/Barikumutima

Today, Alphonsine's life has been transformed. Like her peers, she maintains a vegetable garden and produces enough for her and her son. She also sells palm oil through a loan from her solidarity group: "I borrowed BIF 30,000 ($16). I bought a 7-litre can of palm oil at BIF 11,000 ($5.8). I make a profit of BIF 12,000 ($6) every month.” She even teamed up with thirteen other young people to open a hairdressing salon. "We distributed the tasks and work in shifts, my turn comes on Wednesdays and I earn an average of 4,000 BIF ($2) per day of work.”

Alphonsine has also become a model for her community. Pascal Ngendabanka, 60 years old, a father of 4 children and 18 grandchildren testifies: "I used to drink the money I earned, which created a conflict with my wife. Since August 2019, Alphonsine with a group of other young people, visited me at home several times and made me aware of the importance of good management of household resources and helped me understand that I needed to change my behaviour. These young people are a blessing to us. They came back later to help us make a small vegetable garden that my wife likes very much.”

Alphonsine feels optimistic about her future and is ready to make an effort to fulfill her simple dream of giving her son a good life. For her, this means a joyful life, in peace, with enough means to meet her needs.