Mariya Arafasha Foundation – They are Mary’s children
This work of Mary is helping street children
Maryia Arafashais the Burundian name of a foundation meaning in English, Mary helps. The Church has always been close to the poor, and it has continued to be so throughout the centuries. The Church only follows the message of Him who identified with the poor and who said: “I was naked and you clothed me, I was hungry and you gave me to eat.” (Matt.25:35-36) All the help that is given to the poor, no matter how small, is the help given to this Christ who suffers today.
The situation of poverty Burundi suffers from is well known. It is a country that is classified among the five poorest on the planet. It is a country overcoming with difficulty a civil war, and it is also a country, it’s necessary to say, in which the political class is corroded by corruption and many kinds of conflicts. Today Burundi needs to be rebuilt in the spiritual sphere as well as the moral, social, and economic spheres. The Church tries to do its best, but it needs help. In Schoenstatt a social work has begun entitled, Mariya Arafasha Foundation or Mary Helps. It is the work of the Blessed Mother. She wants to help Christ who is suffering today. This work of Mary is helping street children who have now adopted another name, they are Mary’s children. They are helped to regain their dignity as persons. At the same time, beggars who live on the streets as a result of the lack of resources are also helped. There is another project that takes care of orphaned children who cannot continue their studies except by paying them a stipend. Today it is a great joy to see these ex-street children. It is impressive to see their joy and how they have truly begun a new life. There is a great difference between what they were last year and what they are now. The majority of them go to school and the older ones learn a trade. Some of them have recently made their First Communion, and the rest are preparing for Baptism. These children are beginning a better future; they begin to believe that it’s possible to be like others, to study, and work like others. If only you knew how much joy your help gives; you would also be filled with joy.
“Queen of Peace” Center
In 2006, the foundation, Mariya Arafasha, was established by the Institute of Fathers of Schoenstatt of Burundi with hope and with many activities. The construction of the Queen of Peace Center has meanwhile begun. At first, this center will shelter an orphanage (boarders) for “Mary’s children” (ex-street children) and for other orphans who will be welcomed there. If there are sufficient funds this center will help about 100children and youth. It is also planned, to build a technical school so these children and other youth can learn a trade. Furthermore, technical training will create a source of employment in a country in which joblessness and poverty have reached a high degree. Later if God allows it, other public works will be built for the purpose of promoting education for everyone and as a contribution to the consolidation of peace.
Mariya Arafasha Foundation
Mount Sion Gikungu, Bujumbura, Burundi
The Mariya Arafasha Foundation was founded by the Schoenstatt Fathers in Burundi to support reconciliation, education, and development. It offers three main programmes:
- Social, peace, education and development activities, based on reconciliation between communities;
- Youth education;
- Poverty alleviation.
They strive not only to respond to the basic needs of participants but also to promote reconciliation among them as Burundians, by bringing together people from different social backgrounds and providing a solid foundation for peace.
Peace and Reconciliation Festivals
In 2008, the Mariya Arafasha Foundation planned and organised three Peace and Reconciliation Festivals. These gathered together people from various ethnic groups, calling on them to live and work together again in a spirit of reconciliation. The Festivals included dance, drama, and other competitions, all focused on peace.
The overall objective was to raise awareness about the peace process in Ruyigi and Bujumbura and to encourage mutual respect across ethnic boundaries. The locations were chosen because Bujumbura is the capital, and Ruyigi was one of the provinces worst affected by the war, with a high number of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Refugees who fled to Tanzania are still returning to Ruyigi, which can pose challenges post-conflict, so the Festival which took place there was very welcome among local communities and government authorities.
More than 20 groups comprising choirs, cultural and dance groups took part. Amateurs and professionals performed songs, stories, comedy sets and traditional drumming on themes of peace and community reconciliation. Large audiences attended the festivals. On the day of the Ruyigi festival, the capital had recently been attacked by rebels, yet more than 500 people crowded into the Maison Shalom conference centre for the Festival, demonstrating that many ordinary Burundians are still committed to peace.
Mariya Arafasha Soccer Tournament
This project gathered together young boys aged 14-20 and their supporters, from various communes, for both a tournament and a discussion of peace and reconciliation in a relaxed atmosphere. The sport was used as an entry point to promote non-violence among those of different ethnic groups and social backgrounds.
The young participants were divided into 12 teams and played 32 matches between May and June 2008. Only five players were allowed onto the pitch at a time because it was so small! After each match, there were training sessions on dealing with differences, which encouraged the participants to act as role models for peace in their communities.
Sporting activities in themselves not enough to build peace. But they can be an excellent catalyst to encourage youth involvement in substantive issues affecting their lives. Through sport, young people can gradually learn and experiment with new skills for peacebuilding and development.