Odetta is a 38-year-old mother of six children. Since being back in Burundi after years of enforced exile, she is full of joy. “I had missed home, especially my extended family. I had to come back”.
With all the excitement of returning to her country, Odetta initially didn’t fully anticipate the many difficulties she would face. She found it very hard to settle back. She did not have any work, nor any capital to start up a business. She depended on her husband, who had also returned to Burundi a year before.
With six children to care for, Odetta needed to find work. She farmed a small patch of land, but it was infertile so the crops were poor. She was near breaking point.
Then Odetta fell into a coma after giving birth to her seventh child. The coma left her almost dead for a month. “It was a miracle that I survived. Up to this day, I give all thanks to God for his protection,” Odetta tells us.
Desperate and hopeless, she decided to go on a reintegration program for repatriated refugees organized by GLO partner RESTOBU. The programme was to help heal the wounds and rebuild trust among the repatriated and those who did not flee during the crisis.
This programme gave birth to a microloan group of fifteen families, eight of whom are repatriated. These microloans not only helped them save money, but they also bought a goat for each one of the represented family members. They have also held counselling sessions which continue to unite them.
Odetta is now the microloan group leader, and she recently won a telephone for becoming the best leader in her local area. The benefit of these groups is that they give training and encourage professional development to ensure longer-term sustainability.
Her hope for the next five years is that their group will establish their own farm and become efficient in producing and selling rice.