From a young age, Bienvenue wanted to follow in his Dad’s footsteps and become a cook. He dreamt of becoming a successful chef in a renowned hotel, but that would be nearly impossible without formal education or opportunities.
Bienvenue was born into a large family of 15 children. His father had three wives, so they rarely saw him. Neither of his parents could provide for all their children. This meant that Bienvenue and his siblings had to fend for themselves.
Growing up in the slums of Buterere in Bujumbura, Bienvenue had already started depending on himself for survival by age 8. He searched for his food and bought his school materials by selling plastic bottles he’d collected from dumpsites. “Sometimes I had to wake up at 5 AM to get to the dumpsite while it was dawn since there were greater chances to get more plastic bottles,” Bienvenue recalls.
For years, Bienvenue and his friends managed to earn a lot from scavenging in dumpsites near suburban areas.
All his friends decided to drop out of school, but Bienvenue chose to continue: “I didn’t want to collect rubbish for the rest of my life. I knew I had to finish school to achieve my dreams.”
Bienvenue was 16 when he started collecting from the bins around the back of the King’s Conference Centre (KCC). This hotel and conference centre is renowned in Bujumbura, and their busy schedule produced lots of waste he could use! But KCC is not your average hotel. Created as a social enterprise to support ministries throughout Burundi, the ethos of the staff goes beyond profit. They aim to show love and hospitality to any person who walks through their gates – no matter how ‘insignificant’ they appear in the eyes of the world.
Discovering that Bienvenue walked 15km every day after school to collect rubbish from KCC, the hearts of the staff filled with compassion, and they would offer him food. As he regularly visited KCC, they formed a relationship, as Bienvenue shares:
“I mostly came for the plastic bottles, but that changed when the chef offered to teach me how to cook. He had heard about me wanting to become a chef.” Eventually, an opportunity arose, and they invited Bienvenue to apply for the job.
Today, he is a part-time kitchen staff at King’s Conference Centre. At 21 years old, his dream is coming closer to reality. “I’m so thankful to Gaposho, KCC’s head chef, for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime. No matter the situation or circumstance, God works in mysterious ways.”
The boy who once raided the bins now cooks in the kitchen of one of the city’s top hotels. Although KCC’s focus is on providing excellent service and building an effective business, the kindness of their staff has led to an incredible opportunity for Bienvenue to work his way out of poverty and pursue his dreams.