Being able to read and do basic math is something many people take for granted. Liesse, a widow in Burundi, doesn’t. When she was five, her father, a farmer, died. Because he died, Liesse* was not able to attend school. Her mother eventually remarried and they became a family with six children. Her parents took care of the family as well as they could but Liesse never learned to read and write.
She married when she was eighteen. She and her husband had four children. In 2002, one year after the birth of their last born, her husband was killed during violent unrest. In the middle of the night, people broke the door to their home, came in and shot him three times. Liesse stayed there in the mountains with her children but life became harder and harder. She had a small piece of farmland but her husband’s family didn’t care about her and her children and would sometimes take the harvest.
One day, Liesse went with her two daughters to the hospital in Bujumbura. One of them had a problem with her neck. The doctor said Liesse would have to pay $90 before the surgery could be performed. Liesse told the doctor she couldn’t get that amount because she was a widow. The doctor said they could only treat the girl if Liesse paid first. Liesse broke down and cried. A woman who heard told her, “I heard your tears. I know a place where they welcome widows and orphans who have problems in life. I will take you.“
Liesse first came to Homecare on a Friday but it was closed. She persisted and came back Monday. She met some of the staff and got information about the center. A week later, they called to tell her she was accepted into the program. Liesse, a little nervous, asked what she needed to bring. “Nothing,” they said. “Just come.”
Along with sewing training and spiritual development, Liesse began the literacy program at the center. The teacher gave her a notebook and pen and she started to learn how to put letters together. Liesse beams as she says she knows the words she writes are not all correct but others can see the idea of what she means. That is a joy after a lifetime of not being able to communicate by written word. She admits that sometimes it is all very hard but she believes in God’s Word and knows this is the right road for her.
At the graduation ceremony in June 2014, Liesse read the opening scripture. After graduation, she received a sewing machine and a stipend to start her business. Her business is growing and she continues to visit the program periodically to update staff on how she’s doing and encourage the current students.
* Not her real name.