Eleven years ago, Burundi native Sifa Mireye was given the chance of a new life in Australia, after a lifetime spent in refugee camps when her family fled their country.
After settling into Shepparton in 2006, Sifa and her family haven’t had to worry about security, food, medical help or education, and the 22-year-old now wants to use what she has gained to give back to the forgotten nation of Burundi.
Since the beginning of the year, Sifa, with the support of Shepparton St Paul’s Lutheran Church, has saved $2000 towards the development of an $80000 12-classroom school, medical centre and church in Burundi.
The land will cost $10000 alone, with the rest contributing to the actual development.
Although she left her country too young to really know it, Sifa said she had learned more about her culture and the struggles faced by her people, and what led her family to ultimately flee.
‘‘Burundi is the second poorest country in the world and people often don’t know where their next meal is coming from,’’ Sifa said.
‘‘Education, health care and other things we take for granted are only available to the rich, and there is still a lot of fighting and every day people have to deal with insecurity.’’
It was through her research that she heard about Burundian pastor Emile, who, with a group of leaders, developed the plan to build the project.
The initial goal is to buy land in Bujumbura, before the construction of the church using materials and labour provided by local members, and stage three will be the construction of the classrooms.
Sifa said that even though she hadn’t properly known her country, it was still a place that held a special place in her heart, and she wanted to give back to the people there.
‘‘I’m blessed, if I was in Africa I wouldn’t have had all of these opportunities that I’ve had here so far, especially to go to school,’’ she said.
‘‘My own experience has made me want to help people, and I think that helping needs to come from the heart and you have to want to do it.
‘‘It’s a lot of money and it won’t happen overnight, but it’s up to us to do what we can do.’’
The church will hold a fundraiser at Shepparton IGA on Saturday, September 23 to raise money for the cause.
If you are interested in donating, please visit www.sheppartonlutheranchurch. org/burundi-mission.html or phone 58215206.