East of Bujumbura, elevated 2500 meters in the mountains sits the rural village of Muramvya and the home of Isai & Samantha Torres, founders of an NGO seeking to care for Burundi’s orphaned children. Through a divine connection, I met this couple and their newborn baby, Malaki.
Thanks to Isai and Samantha, I am enjoying a few days of rest at their home in the mountains.
The first morning I was sipping strong coffee and basking in the warmth of the sun’s rays. Then I began to notice through the fence slats a procession of children wandering up and down this mountain path.
It’s 10am on a Wednesday. Why aren’t the children at school?
And what in the world are they carrying on their heads?
Samantha explains. It’s summer vacation the children are working to help support their families. They’re molding, baking, and carrying bricks.
Together, we wander down the trail from their house to check out the operation. The path is dusty. And steep. How do they manage this trek while balancing a load of bricks on their heads?
Along the way, Samantha greets her neighbors with a warm smile, introducing me in perfect Kirundi. They’re all glad to meet her visitor, but really they want to know, “Where is Baby Malaki?” Its clear to me that she and Isai are well established and have made a significant impact on this community.
Soil is mixed with water pressed into a wooden frame. The molded mud bricks will spend three days drying prior to baking in the kilns. After baking, they are stacked and prepared for distribution. Each brick costs $0.3, including delivery.
Ranging in age from 7-16, the children earn a humble 500 Francs ($0.41) per day. They make the trip from this valley up the mountain to the main road by foot—barefoot—six times per day. Its an arduous journey, but the children don’t complain. Hunger is strong motivation.