helps orphaned children
Based on the literature on international development and personal success, why has Dr Maggie Barankitse and Maison Shalom been so successful? Some key characteristics come to mind:
Dr Barankitse took a HOLISTIC APPROACH to assisting orphaned children. She BUILT ON THE STRENGTHS of existing communities and helped to develop them. She offered children pathways to success through training, not handouts.
As Maison Shalom grew, it no longer waited for orphans to find them, but reached out and found children in need of support. Dr. Barankitse sought to give orphaned children the best care possible and in time Maison Shalom's approach became a MODEL for neighboring countries struggling with similar issues.
Marguerite Barankitse, better known as Maggy, was born in Ruyigi, Burundi. She lost her father at a very young age and grew up with her mother, brother, and in the close company of her grandparents and uncles. Her mother adopted eight children, demonstrating the importance of loving one's neighbours and inspiring Maggy to devote her life to helping children.
After studying in her home country to be a teacher, Barankitse completed three years of seminary studies in Lourdes, France, before returning to Burundi to teach French at the secondary school in her hometown. During this time, Barankitse, who was only 23 years old, informally adopted one of her students, Chloé, a girl from a different ethnic background and religion, who had been orphaned.
In the late 1980s, Barankitse returned to Europe to study administration in Switzerland. She accepted a post in a diocese in Ruyigi only to experience having the diocese's main building burned down in late 1993 as a result of the unrest and ethnic killings going on there and, not long after, in neighbouring Rwanda.
Barankitse was distressed that brothers and sisters were killing each other and determined to do something about the situation. She found refuge in the home of a German humanitarian worker in Ruyigi named Martin. They opened the doors to an ever growing number of orphaned children fleeing the violence and Barankitse gave a name to the buildings being used as a safe haven, Maison Shalom, the house of peace.
Initially Maison Shalom offered places to shelter, including in some of the remaining buildings of Barankitse's diocese, but by the late 1990s, services were expanding to include reintegration efforts, or the return of children to family members from whom they had been separated. Neighbours were also approached to take in children who would eventually inherit nearby lands.
In 1999, thanks to the support of welfare organisation Caritas Germany and Unicef, Maison Shalom was able to return 121 children to their families or communities. Maison Shalom's programme of reintegration expanded in 2000, after the signing of peace accords. In 2002, Maison Shalom officially became a not-for-profit organisation. In time, more than 20 000 young people were assisted by Maison Shalom. Buildings were added and Maison Shalom grew into a village in its own right with a hospital, recreation centre, farm, school, housing, and an income-generating guesthouse.
Maison Shalom is changing not only the lives of the orphans, but an entire community that now benefits from access to additional services.
The organisation has assisted children to understand their legal rights, and in some cases to be released from potentially long prison sentences for minor infractions, such as stealing a pair of pants. In the present day, the majority of those who work at Maison Shalom were once children seeking refuge there. The Maison Shalom farm alone employs 20 permanent and 300 seasonal workers, including some former patients from the Maison Shalom hospital. Others work in carpentry, masonry, auto-mechanics and other fields in which Maison trained them.
Barankitse has been recognised for her excellent work with a medal from France in December 1998 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; to date, only ten people have received this distinction, including the Dalai Lama.
She has also received: a Trophy of Courage from Afrique International (2000), a North-South Prize from the Council of Europe (2001), a World's Children's Prize for the Rights of the Child (2003), Four Freedoms Award from the Roosevelt Institute (2004), an honorary doctorate fromLouvain-la-Neuve University, Belgium (2004), a Nansen Refugee Award from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (2005), a certificate of merit from the president of Burundi for services rendered to the nation (2007), a Unicef prize award (2008), Guardian Achievements in International Development award (2009), Médaille de chevalier de la légion d'honneur, France (2009), Chirac Foundation Prize for the Prevention of Conflicts (2011), an honorary doctorate from Catholic University in Lille, France (2011), a Colomba d'oro per la pace (Golden Dove of Peace) from Archivio Disarmo, Italy (2011), and the Segal Family Foundation's Angel of Africa award (2013).