The Building Blocks of Summer

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.

Mountain Retreat

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.

burundi children

It’s 10am on a Wednesday. Why aren’t the children at school?

And what in the world are they carrying on their heads?

child's burden africa

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.

About 15 minutes later, we arrive at the brick-making project. There are 50 total workers: 25 men, 25 children. The men fabricate the bricks; the children distribute them.

Brick-making 101

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.

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3 responses to “The Building Blocks of Summer

  1. Megan these bricks remind me of when Dr Justine took us around back at the new hospital site to see their bricks. Nothing was mentioned about children carrying bricks when we asked, I thought they said something about a truck, nonetheless it’s a lot of work for so little. Hey by the way I like the new blog
    not that I didn’t like the old one. Did I tell you how proud of you I am? You’re
    still my HERO. Love Dad.

  2. Jackie Anderson

    Hey Megan,
    I’m Samantha’s Mom…she told me about you and where to find your blog…
    you are an amazing writer and I’m enjoying your journey, as you post.
    You mix sad with joyful in such a way that I’m sure the people there appreciate
    the ways of your heart. The glass is half full…
    I’m so glad you were able to spend some time with Samantha, Isai &
    Baby Malaki and they really enjoyed having you stay with them.
    Blessings jackie

    • Jackie. Thanks for your kind words! I have been so blessed by Samantha and Isai. They have demonstrated such generosity and selflessness here in Burundi. Its been inspiring to hear from their hearts and see what they’re doing!

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