Wow, Burundi is nothing like what I expected! I have always pictured Africa as a place with
nothing but enormous fertile grasslands, wild rainforests, massive deserts and huge populations
of people living in desperate conditions fighting to survive mass famine and global poverty.
After doing my research and learning that Burundi is the second poorest country in the world I
was expecting to be blown away by poverty. I thought that our drive from Bujumbura (the city
where we landed) to Kibuye (the city where we are working) would consist of endless dusty
villages with dirty, starving people, struggling in their quest to survive under the scorching
equatorial sun.

I didn’t even need to wait to see the Republic of Burundi in daylight to realize how wrong
I was. Once again, my self-centered, western ethnocentrism got the best of me. This is a
beautiful country! The entire country is full of rolling mountains and lush, fertile valleys. Most
importantly, the people aren’t starving. Burundi is an exceptionally fertile place and it has three
growing seasons. It is said that as long as you aren’t too lazy to plant seeds that you won’t go
hungry in this place.
The people of Burundi live in small, but clean houses surrounded by the people they love, their
favorite people in the world. Every evening this place comes alive with children running around,
playing football (the real kind) on the grassy field in the center of our village while the adults sit
around in friendly conversation happily enjoying the end of another great day. After leaving one
of the wealthiest counties in the world to spend two months working in one of the poorest I am
seriously doubting the standard that our society uses to measure wealth.

Chris and I traveled to Burundi with an experienced surgeon, Dr. Gordon Jacobs, who has been
to Africa dozens of times for medical missions. Our main priority and the reason that we are
here is to work with the Burundian medical students. We are working with the entire class of 27
students of fifth year med students (first clinical year after four years of undergrad education)
at Hope Africa University. The students are wonderful and eager to learn. They also have
great bedside manner and show genuine interest in their patients. However, this is their first
clinical experience and they are not yet familiar with the way things work in a hospital. Right
now we are working with them to help them get the most out of their clinical experience. We
are teaching them simple things like how to take accurate histories and physicals, and what
information about their patients is important to gather on pre-rounds so they will be prepared
for rounding with their attending. Today we noticed that they have not yet been taught sterile
technique or surgical knot tying so we plan on hitting those subjects soon to allow them to be
able to scrub in and assist on cases in the Operating Room. …

My last patient of the day yesterday was a 3 day old child who was born prematurely. When
we saw him he wasn’t feeding so we planned on giving him fluids and operating on him in the
morning to see why he was vomiting up all his food. Late last night Chris and I returned to the
hospital because I had a bad feeling that no one would be able to get IV access. When we found
him he was lying in his grandmother’s arms and besides his heavy respirations he was barely
moving. His mouth was dry indicating severe dehydration. He still hadn’t tolerated a meal and
he still was not getting IV fluids. As Chris and I examined the child all of the adults stared at us
helplessly, wondering what we were going to do. We had to look into their scared eyes and shrug
our shoulders while feeling quite convinced that their child wasn’t going to survive the night.
We prayed for the Child and left the hospital knowing that there was nothing left we could do.

When we returned to the hospital this morning, the baby looked much better. One of the medical
students with us spoke to the mother and told us that the child tolerated his milk the night before
and was becoming increasingly active. As the day went on today he has continued to improve.
The hospital staff was able to start an IV line and he responded so well to the fluids that the next
time we searched for him he was with his mother in the postpartum floor of the hospital, looking
like a normal infant. I am convinced that God’s saving hand touched him sometime late last
night and that we witnessed a miracle today.


  1. 8-24-2014

    What a wonderful note! It brings back memories of “home” and how much I loved working at the hospital in Shashamane, Ethiopia! It’s wonderful to read of the miracles still happening!

    • 10-14-2015

      Great about this experience.
      God is still on your side for more to be done.

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