No place for children

No place for Children, the last UNICEF report on Syrian children, states that 8.4 million children are affected by the war, 1 in 3 children has been born since the conflict began in 2011 and 151.000 children were born as refugees.

Click here to read the Report.

Here below the story of Saja,a twelve years old Syrian girl who talks about school, gymnastic and football, despite having lost a leg and may friends in the war.

(The video is by UNICEF, 2016)


On a smaller scale, Burundian children are suffering violence and uncertainty every day. In the last week, three children were killed. One was a three year old little girl who died in a grenade attack. The total causalities of burundian children is 29 since the beginning of the political crisis. 260.000 is the rough estimate of refugees living in neighbouring countries. (For more info on the Burundian humanitarian situation, click here.)

I wonder where children can have the right to a happy childhood in this world.




SWATCH, Play International and street children

Play International, one of the first NGO’s in using sports for education and social change, just received a donation from Swatch who decided to support its Playdagogy program which offers children opportunities to learn and develop life skills through play.

Two of our Girineza children, Joseph and Audrick, feature in the Play International/Swatch campaign. In this photo they were cheering for their team during sports activities in Buterere, Bujumbura, with Play International animators.

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Photo by Martina Bacigalupo, Bujumbura, Burundi, 2011

“UNICEF estimates that 120 million children around the world are defined as street children. In Burundi, particularly in Bujumbura, this phenomenon is very important, because there are 2000 children there that find themselves in this situation. Given this situation, PL4Y International was asked to teach and present Playdagogie to the professionals that were opening the centers to better improve the living conditions of these children. 20 people from five associations were trained, of whom were certain assistant animators of Pl4y International and a NGO partner from the Congo.

Started in September 2014, this project was completed in late February with the certifications given to all the trained participants after 6 months of training.

The objective of this training was to provide additional keys to these professionals, so that they, through the game, could find other ways to convey educational messages to these children.

Faced daily with violence and the dangers of the street, these children develop aggressive behavior and lose all social baring. Sport and play thus appear as particularly efficient means to renew social ties and contribute to the reintegration of these children in the community.” (quote from Play International’s website)

Here a video that explains Playdagogy with children with handicap:

For more info on Play International’s activities in Burundi and in other countries, click here.

Despite violences and diseases, a succesful year


“This year has been a very difficult one for our organization.The first challenge was to continue our activities through the ongoing political crisis: children have been the victims of physical and psychological violences since February 2015. Also our neighborhood, Buterere, has been affected: we were forced to close the restaurant, which was helping us to pay school fees for children and some salaries; children were scared of being killed by the police; the school has been working on and off because of armed confrontations and street blocks, and it will even close completely at times.On top of this, our friends who created and supported Girineza had to flee the country. We are distant now but luckily, despite this, we continue to work together.

Another challenge has been children diseases: Emelyne and Jadine have had malaria more than three times this year. This affected their school frequentation and results. Emelyne also had an eye problem and coudnt see anymore what was written on the blackboard. We had to buy her some glasses. The other children had malaria just once, and Joseph had nothing becausehe is very strong.

Another challenge has been the inflation: prices have raised of more than 40%

Despite all this our children have been very consistent. Nowa and Joseph are the best of our group and the best of their classes, Audrick and Dishon are very good and Emelyne and Jadine are weak, but as I said they had several problems this year. They both had problems being on time at school because of the augmentation criminality on the road to the school. But they will do better next year. Especially Jadine who has such has a strong will. I am studying with Emelyne’s parents how to help her for next year. She has a lot of will too and I will not leave her. We are still waiting Tama’s results, who has improved very much this year.
As an animator, it was a very hard year. I regret to say that the TUGIRUMWETE project for parents has almost stopped because we don’t have enough money to restart it. Almost all the crop died because of the harsh sun and the lack of rain. Also, Mama Dishon couldnt follow the project as she did before because she got pregnant again!
Overall, I think that despite the political crisis and Emelyne’s failure, we managed to succed and we are moving forward.”
Fabrice, 13 July 201


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Fabrice and the children on the beach, Lake Tanganyika, Bujumbura (from left to right Audrick, Joseph, Dishonm Nowa, JAdinem Emelyne, Tama) Photo by Landry Nshimiye


Our children just received their school results for the end of the year. They worked hard despite the hard time of their country and the very difficult year for them and their families. All passed their year with the exception of Emelyne . We are very proud of them. In brakets you’ll find Fabrice’s commentaries.

from left to right: Jadine, Nowa, Joseph, Audrick and Dishon, preparing their end of year exams. Photo by Fabrice Nsengiyumva


Nowa: 7th Primary : 1st of his class (“succesfull from the beginning to the end”)

Joseph: 5th Primary 1st of his class (“succesfull from the beginning to the end”)

Audrick: 5th Primary, 10th of his class (“good but lower in the final ranking”)

Jadine: 4th Primary, 20th of her class (“she managed to succeed with little chances”)

Dishon: 2nd year, 9th of his class (“He will move foward he is very strong”)

Emelyne:4th Primary, 26th of her class (“weak. she will have to repeat the year”)


We are still waiting for Tama’s results, as his school is a different one and has different dates.

“Tiny Country”, Gael Faye’s childhood in Burundi

Petit Pays, (“Tiny Country”) is the title of the new book of Gael Faye, franco-rwandan rapper, known for, among others,  his album “Pili-pili sur un croissant au beurre” where he sings about the Great Lakes Region, the land where he comes from and where he grew up.

Petit Pays is the story of his childhood in Burundi during the years prior the civil war of 1993. A time of happiness and games . But also a time of violence, where 10 year old Gabriel, the main character, discovers his ethnicity, his mixed-race, and suddenly the paradise becomes hell.

“Petit pays is the story of the end of innocence, the lost paradise”, Gael Faye told in an interview to TV5Monde.

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Gael Faye

Another time and another childhood and yet somehow so close to that of the children of Girineza today.




Look Beyond borders

Today I just wanted to share a video that I thought we should all take the time to look at.

Yes, this blog is about our Burundian children, but in fact it is about all children and all people going through hard times and in need of a hand that reaches out, an ear that listens, a shoulder that relieves from pain.

Like our children in Buterere, many others face very difficult situations. This video is about refugees who are fleeing long-lasting conflicts and are trying to find a new home somewhere. But this new home is so difficult to find. Countries are scared and people are scared and borders keep growing. Amnesty International created this video to break down barriers between recently-arrived refugees and Europeans. The video in fact is based on a theory developed by psychologist Arthur Aron in 1997 that four minutes of uninterrupted eye contact increases intimacy. Amnesty International applied the theory to the refugee crisis, sitting refugees from Syria and Somalia opposite people from Belgium, Italy, Germany, Poland and the UK.






Fabrice at PLAYGROUND FORUM in France

Fabrice (third from left standing) with a group of animators at the Playground event, Lille, France, June 2016

Fabrice just participated to the second edition of PLAYGROUND, (#PlayInternational #Playground) an event organized in France by PLAY  International under the high patronage of the Ministry of National Education and the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

This event is for all actors involved with sport, education and social change. During two days 253 teachers, animators, sport educators of 6 different countries (Burundi, Kosovo, France, UK, Belgium, Inde) around the same education approach: “Playdagogy”.

Dedicate to formation, co-creation and good-practices exchanges, the animators worked particularly on those two themes: nutrition and handicap.  To Value hygiene and nutritional balance, to change the way children look at people with handicap, promote inclusion.. many concrete subjects approached through sport and games.





Girineza on “Corriere della Sera”

An article on Girineza on the daily Corriere della Sera:

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Girineza Burundi: a better future for 10 african children, by Ilaria Leccardi

Folling in love with Africa to the point of deciding to stay and live there. Leaving for a professional project and then creating her own one, involving street childrenin order to give them the chance to a better future. It’s the story of Martina Bacigalupo, professional photographer from Rapallo, known internationally for her black and white photography and co-founder of Girineza. A dream come true.

All started from the encounter of Martina, the socio-cultural animator Fabrice Nsengiyumva and the at the time director of Sport Sans Frontieres, Sonia Grabot, during a photo project in the refugee camp of Sabe in Butererem bujumbur, Burundi.

My personal encounter with the organization took place in Rapallo, during a sport event organized by Ginnastica Tigullio ASD (the Polvere di Magnesio Festival). A quick encounter with Girineza but intense enough to allow to understand the importance of this project.

The idea was simple: target ten people from the camp, of between 6 and 15 years of age, all involved in the production of bricks. Give them the opportunity to go back to school, socialise and do cultural activities; have access to clean water and at least one meal per day; receive health care and support to get identification docu;ents for those who didnt have them. A lot of will to change things and there it was, Girineza! With Fabrice, the animator, Claudine the cook, Mama Dishon the fac-totum.

Last year, thanks to the support of friends Girineza finally obtained the offical status of Burundian ASBL. Two new projects started then: the “cafe restau’, a restaurant intended to be an income generating source for the organization, in order to be less and less dependent on external aid; and “Tugire Umwete” (in Kirundi it means ” we are brave”), a collective income-generating activity for the parents of the children who rent a crop field, take care of the crops and then sell them in the neighbourhood.

To exist, Girineza needs 50 euros per month per child. An accessible ammount for many of us, and which can change entirely the life of a child.

Instead of talking about the negative and painful events of our planet I chose today of dedicating those lines to a positive project, to the story of an italian woman who wanted to give her contribution to a reality distant from ours through her work and her passion and her capacity of “reading” the world around her.

For more information and to give a donation to Girineza, please send an email to: girineza2013@gmail.com

A talk with Fabrice, the animator of Girineza

1. Why did you decide to join Girineza ?

Because it is a project that helps vulnerable children who are leading a difficult life. Deep inside I couldn’t tolerate anymore a child suffering before my eyes. I lived my self 8 years as a street child and I know well how hard it can be. I didn’t want it to happen to others anymore.

2. Girineza is a very small organization: just 7 children! According to you there are advantages in having a small organization? If so, which ones?

Girineza is small, it has been 5 years now that we take care of 10 children. Some have left along the way and others will come in. I think the greatest advantage of Girineza is that it is easy to follow each child individually in such a small group. Each child is followed in his daily challenges, we know every small improvements and every limit, and when needed we interveene instantly ! In big organizations often the focus is not on specific behaviour changes in each child therefore the support is not as precise as in a small organization like ours. I also think that in big organizations it is more difficuclt to mesure the real impact. But of course a small organization is limited in the number of children it can support and that is very hard especially in emergency situations.

3. What is a normal day at Girineza like?

In the morning we receive at our center the children on their way to school. We give them tea and beignets and then they go to class as they start at 7.30 am. At around 1 o’clock they come back, take a shower and eat together. Each has his own dish. After lunch they have 30 minutes pause and then they start homeworks together, grouped accordingly to age and class. We also do after-school support for those who are weak in certain subjects. At 3.30 pm each child goes back home.

It is very rewarding because we help children to succeed in their classes, speak different languages, learn mathematics, etc. and we see the results straight away. It is also good to give them a space where to eat and do homeworks without external distractions (family problems and such) which often interfere with the education of the children in our country. We also give them health care and psychological support.  And of course we play with them, which in Burundi is a luxory for children these days.

The main challenge we face is security. Before our children could stay longer at Girineza but nowadays it’s too dangerous so they have to go back home early. Then, as we’ve become a reference point for our neighborhood, we have many people coming to ask if we can take their children too. It is difficult to say we don’t have the means to do so.

4. In Burundi there are many vulnerable children who need support. Which are the criterias you follow to accept new children in your organization? 

It is extremely difficult to say when child is more vulnerable than another, especially in neighborhood like ours that are very poor and look like slums. We try to target young children who dont go to school and children who beg in town ( especially little girls). Before we take them in we go see their families to understand their situation and make sure the families agree. Some times it is difficult to work with the families but in general it works quite well as we provide income-generating activities to support them.

5. You do social work with children since a long time. What is it that made you take this decision? Would you like to share your experience with us?

Since 1993 civil war I grew up in refugees camps. I used to go find food in the streets of Bujumbura, and I did so for 8 years. Some days I would go back home and some days I would’t. I have been a begger, a plastic bags seller, a cigarettes seller, an eggs seller and a marijuana seller but I never stopped going to school! Then I joined the traditional drum players and I met people who helped me. Through them I met the organization Sports Sans Frontieres (today Pl4Y International) and I got my first formation in social-athletic animation in 2010. Since, I focused on socio-ahtletic animation for street children and refugee camps children, and, thanks to the support of Girineza, I went back to University to study Social and Clinic Psychology. I am currently doing my last year.