BlogGLOSimon Blog

The new school year is big business in the West, with supermarket aisles crammed full of uniforms, pencil cases, notepads, and more. I asked my daughter Grace to film me as I recounted one of the most moving encounters I ever experienced with a mother desperate for her children’s future:

Even a hard-working family with a modest income will struggle to shoe, clothe and supply stationery to all their children. Often, they’ll only be able to equip one or two of their children with the bare minimum. I can’t imagine having to choose between which of my kids get to carry on receiving an education…

It’s a heart-wrenching decision that parents will be making right NOW. Sadly, there will be thousands of children (particularly girls) who will not make it through the school gate this year, and if they do, they’ll be too ill-equipped or too hungry to learn. The children suffer, and so does Burundi when educational potential is not realised.

Every year I make this desperate plea because I know the transformational power of education to lift people out of poverty. During this most demanding time, GLO is committed to providing extra support to the 615 families of our hard-working GLO partners.

Please join us in giving these parents the joy of seeing ALL their children head off to school, proudly clothed in their school uniforms, backpacks loaded with pencils and books, with full stomachs and ready to learn. What a blessing!

In the happy event that we meet our goal to provide 615 families with a gift of £30 ($40), we will make sure any additional (one-off and monthly) donations are put to equally invaluable use, distributed to where the needs are the greatest.

GLOSimon Blog

It’s taboo. It’s hidden. It’s devastating.

So many girls suffer in silence, in shame, in sadness. We interviewed a few of them in the poignant video below.

Now that we have a teenage daughter, this issue resonates even more deeply with us than before. We would do everything in our power for her to thrive and not miss out on her studies.

We all are (or have) sisters, daughters, nieces, etc. So this is something we can all relate to and do something about. We can all spare £4/$5 to help one (or 5 or 10 etc) precious teenager in Burundi to continue her studies without having to miss several days of school each month.

It’s easy, it’s practical, it’s impactful. Do you want to help?

We’re looking at supplying 2,000 girls with a pack of five re-usable sanitary pads. It’ll be a total game-changer!

Please do join us in helping them…

With thanks,

Simon & Lizzie

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Great Lakes Outreach is a lean machine, I’m proud to say. And we use donated money carefully, accountably, and strategically.

Today is the culmination of 6 months’ intensive work, and is the launch of our spanking new website. You might think we commissioned a marketing agency for £20k, but no, it was all done in-house, so huge thanks to Paul and Adam – great work guys!

Why not take a look now, starting with the stunning short film on the front page explaining what GLO does? 
I’m very encouraged as we continue to have a nation-shaping impact. There are masses of positives in the mix. However, as you’d expect with the longer-term outworking of Covid, some people have understandably stopped their monthly giving to us. In fact, in the last few weeks, we’ve lost £685/month of regular support.

Monthly support is our bread and butter, and at GLO we’ve taken the title ‘GLO Ambassadors’ to describe those of you who are monthly supporters. We are so grateful to each of you because – as any non-profit organisation will tell you – it’s the regular monthly gifts that enable reliable planning and commitment of funds consistently in key areas.
Could you spare £10/20/50/month? Is there a luxury that you could give up to facilitate this?

What always happens in crises is the last and the least suffer the most. That’s Burundi. But in Jesus’ name, we’ll totally resist that trend – with your help.

So if you can dig deep, please do so HERE.

Do enjoy looking through the website. There are so many beautiful films, stories, and fresh content. One of our values is excellence, to the glory of God, and I think we’ve delivered that. Call me biased, but I think it’s as good as any international mega-minted NGO! 

God bless you all.
GLOSimon Blog

You will be healed if you have sufficient faith. Still sick? It’s your lack of faith! That loved one of yours who died? It was because they sinned.You can have anything you set your heart on… Just claim it by faith, and God’s Word says it is yours! Amen? 

Hmm…

I hate false teaching, heresies, lies like the above. Sadly, they are very popular and common in Burundi.

The Church is growing – you could say exploding in growth – which is wonderful. But the challenge of that growth is the prosperity gospel drivel disseminated on the radio, from the pulpit, or in the classroom.

And why is this nonsense spreading? In large part because of a lack of access to the Word of God.

A vibrant Christian Union may have 100-150 members, but only one or two (and sometimes none) of these students will own a Bible. That’s not enough!

We need to get more Bibles into the hands of students who are often passionate but hugely susceptible to these lies. Will you help us?

Thanks to the huge generosity of a few supporters, we’ve got matched funding of £20,000 to get Bibles into the hands of school children and college students.

Each subsidised Bible costs us £5, so our goal this Easter is to provide 4,000 Bibles, which will be doubled to 8,000 Bibles – beautiful!

Through Scripture Union’s Bible Project, we go into schools and provide Bibles at great discount, which the students purchase through a savings club with affordable increments. The students treasure the Bibles they’ve saved so hard for, and the money raised gets recycled – enabling more students to access Bibles. We’ve done it for years and it works!

Here’s us doing it last week in a school upcountry. 

Would you consider making a donation, all the more knowing that it will be doubled?

Go for it!

God bless you loads,

Simon

BlogGeneralGLOGuest BlogSimon Blog

This is a guest blog by my Norwegian friend Arne. It’s something we’re looking to get involved in. It is so strategic, so empowering, so beautiful. 

This short film (under 4mins) explains the concept:

Over to Arne:

Hello folks!

Why do we think that the solutions for those who are poor in Africa are different from the solutions in the UK, USA and Norway? Every human throughout the world has God-given talents, as well as needs.

The need for a job, to feel wanted and valued, to provide for the family, and to have a relatively predictable and secure future – it’s the same for all human beings no matter where they live.

And the children need good role models of how to work to provide for the family, how to save and plan for the future, how to use and develop their own talents, how to be involved in community development and wealth creation, and finally how to submit to rules and authorities, and to God.

A transformed and sustainable Burundi is in need of transformed mindsets – a new way of building value-based foundations and strategies. We need to use methods bringing skills and a good character resulting in hope and a good future, one with dignity. If not, the next generations will find themselves in the same helplessness and hopelessness as is the case for many today. 

So how can a bank (microfinance is like a small bank, but for the poor) be a tool for such a transformation? We say that everything we do, we do to improve the livelihoods of the rural poor people in Burundi. And to glorify Jesus by using our God-given talents as for God (Col 3.23).

We’ve been doing this in Burundi now for 10 years, training people and providing loans to start up new small businesses. We’ve learnt plenty of lessons, and now have just under 20,000 beneficiaries, with a loan repayment rate of 96%. That is truly wonderful and amazing, and so many lives have been empowered, transformed and given dignity. I have no doubt it is the way forward. Not handouts, but hand-ups. Not giving out fish, but teaching people how to fish. Not short-term but long-term. 

Below are two typical stories from thousands that we could share. Enjoy them, and if you want to get involved, feel free to connect with us directly or through GLO:

“My biggest joy is that I now can afford education for my children,” says Odette. She lives in a remote village in Bubanza province where Hauge now is operating. I have never seen such a smile from people receiving aid, only when being enabled to climb out of poverty with new skills, with a strong character, and in a solidarity group with courage, hard work and unity.

Etienne is one of our customers in Hauge Family Microfinance. His village is cheering when he is showing the furniture he has made and is selling in his shop. He has become an entrepreneur and a leader for development in his local community. Three years ago, he received our training and a loan to buy logs. Today he has hired five people in the village to chop wood for him. A stable income has also made it possible to pay for his five children’s schooling.

Beautiful!

Check out the episode of my podcast where I interviewed Arne – his vision blew my mind!

Some more links:

Hauge Family Microfinance Burundi: www.hfm.bi
Hauge Microfinance: www.haugemicro.no

BlogGeneralGLOSimon Blog

Do give yourself 57 secs of joy by watching this!

This is just the briefest of messages feeding back on your beautiful response to our Christmas appeal to provide health cards to several thousand desperately needy folks. £2.50/$3 was what it cost to provide them and their immediate families three years of access to medical care. We filmed this at one of the handout events where a thousand people received their card.
So we say A MASSIVE THANK YOU on their behalf.

Oof, there will be fewer senseless deaths! With guaranteed healthcare provision, they’ll have deep peace rather than crippling anxiety!

God bless you all LOADS!

BlogGeneralGLOSimon Blog

a man with a staff stands next to a fire in the street

Last Friday in Bujumbura, CIP was shut down, wound up, put to bed. Let me explain why that is probably GLO’s greatest satisfaction to date in our involvement in Burundi:

In April 2015, a political (and therefore national) crisis came to a head as the sitting President announced he would indeed stand for a third 5-year term in office. The constitution stipulated a maximum of two 5-year terms elected ‘by the people’. His first term had been elected by parliament as Burundi ended its 13-year war. So can you see how both sides would interpret the situation differently? His side insisted he’d only had one 5-year term elected by the people (which is true), whilst the opposition (and most of the international community) said he’d definitely already served two 5-year terms (which he had), and therefore should step down for the good of Burundi’s fledgling democracy.

That’s when it kicked off. Burning barricades, demonstrations, and fear became a daily reality in the capital.

Within a week of the crisis, all our key leaders met together and had the holiest meeting of my life. We went around the table, with the sound of gunfire and in sight of a burning roadblock, and counted the cost of active engagement in the crisis. For context, we remembered how after the genocide of 1993, someone wrote a tract entitled ‘Abantu b’Imana bagiye he?’ – ‘Where did the people of God go?’ Essentially in 1993, the Church hunkered down in fear, and failed in Her mandate to stand courageously against the onslaught and violence. Would such a tract be re-written in 2015? Not on our watch, we decided!

That was the birth of CIP: Christian Initiatives for Peace.

CIP consisted of a dozen or so strategic Christian organisations (mostly GLO partners). It tapped into their different specialties and constituencies to mobilise people on whichever side of the divide to embrace key accepted shared values: the sacredness of life, compassion, community, and personal responsibility. There were no egos, no jealousies, no rivalries – just total unity. “You’re best at social media, go for it!” “We’ve got the strongest network through schools, so let’s take the lead but we need your input on strategy and content.” “You three are the most coherent expositors and debaters, you go on TV and radio.” “You invite all the pastors as key influencers, we’ll provide the venue and food.”

In a relative vacuum of trusted information, CIP provided a clear voice and framework on how to respond to the crisis based on the teachings of Jesus. In all our attempts to contribute to the process in Burundi, consistently espousing non-violence and dialogue, we very intentionally trod the middle ground, so as to be accessible and trusted (or not) by all sides. The scope of our engagement was significant.

Writing in 2016, i.e. a year later, here are some of Onesphore’s thoughts on that period:

Let me tell you it was scary at times to stick our necks out, on TV and radio, using tens of thousands of tracts, at conferences, bringing youth leaders together, mobilising churches, trying through every means possible to stand for non-violence during violent times. People recognized us wherever we went, and as things became ever more polarized, radicals on each end didn’t like what we were advocating. I often wondered if I would pay the ultimate price of my life for what we were doing, but I (and the others with me) considered it worth the cost as followers of Jesus and because we love our nation so much.

We have so much work to do. But what I love is that GLO is intentionally unknown behind the scenes – not seeking credit for these initiatives, but simply working to facilitate powerful meetings that lead to reconciliation and healing. Some of what we’ve been involved in is too sensitive and can’t be talked about. Maybe we’ll be able to share those stories in a few decades’ time!

Indeed, some of the juiciest stories can’t be shared! But thank God, dire predictions of Burundi imploding never came to fruition. That’s not to belittle the suffering of many, with hundreds of thousands fleeing the country, and a shattered economy. I have to be sensitive in how I communicate this. Burundi has a long way to go to bounce back fully.

However, CIP completed its mission. On Friday, we wrapped it all up. Sadly on my part, covid stopped me flying out to join the last group evaluation and celebration meeting. Honestly it’s hard to quantify the impact, because the aim was to stop bad things happening, and we don’t know how many bad things would have happened without CIP. Suffice to say, we have myriad stories of individuals, like the young man who said: “I’m only alive because I came to your meeting. You told us throwing stones wasn’t the way. I stopped, whilst my friends carried on. They’re dead and I’m still here.”

One of GLO’s key mantras is ‘Everything is about relationship’. As I reflect, we were able to achieve what we did (under God’s grace) because in what was a very distrustful and suspicious climate and culture, we had met intentionally together for years every month to have team breakfast together, pray together and plan together. We’d been on retreats with our spouses together. We saw across ethnic and political divides. Together… indeed, it was all about relationship.

And it still is.

So I write this to praise God and salute my precious Burundian brothers and sisters who formed CIP back in 2015 and did whatever they did in the ensuing years. Instead of the 1993 tract ‘Abantu b’Imana bagiye he?’, the 2015 equivalent could be ‘Abantu b’Imana ni bo basutsemwo mabisi!’ – i.e. not ‘Where did the people of God go?’ but ‘The people of God threw water on (the fire)!’

As we look to the future, there are huge challenges to overcome. I’m encouraged by so many passionate and committed Burundians who are desperate to see the healing of their nation. By faith, with costly action, it will come. But for now, it’s RIP to CIP, 2015-2021!

BlogGeneralGLOSimon Blog

A montage of photos from the new KCC development

I’m seriously excited, because this last week has been almost 12 years in the making. Check out this 1-minute clip with photos

But honestly, there were times when I doubted we would we ever get to this point. Let me explain:

We helped Scripture Union launch the King’s Conference Centre in 2009 (See this video). It’s a sustainable success story and a hit with locals and international guests alike. Not only do several dozen staff receive a good salary to provide for their families, but profits are ploughed back into Kingdom projects like pastor-training, youth camps, and Bible distribution, etc. Beautiful!

But then to our horror, the neighbouring land was going to become a nightclub – this would have massively damaged our plans (who wants to sleep next to a nightclub?!). However, in the end, the owner agreed to sell the land to us if we could find $80k in a week. We prayed and fasted and the funds were miraculously provided that very week!

Owning the neighbouring land meant we could now plan on ramping up facilities. But after some years of plenty, the 2015 political crisis kicked in. Many fled the country. 30 of the 53 staff had to be laid off. It was desperate. Other hotels folded. Our staff took salary-cuts and we hung on in there. Indeed, KCC was the venue for some critical nation-shaping meetings during those tumultuous days, even as roadblocks burned and demonstrators were scattered.

And slowly but surely, through the testing years – including this year when hotel and conference bookings have been affected by the covid crisis – we carried on building Phase 2 one brick at a time… It’s a huge, beautiful project and we believe it has strategic significance in the nation – bringing together ministries and influential people from across all social, political and ethnic groups under the Lordship of the King! On the top floor, overlooking the city of Bujumbura is a dedicated 24/7 prayer room where a constant stream of believers from across the city will be seeking the Lord for peace, protection and national unity. 

And this last week, we were able to do a soft opening of the first two floors for business – especially the two big conference rooms which are the talk of the town in this stunning new facility.

So the point of this blog is simply to…

GIVE GLORY TO GOD
and to
THANK YOU FOR JOURNEYING WITH US!

Am I allowed to be proud and boast about Goretti as Manager and her team?! They’re top-notch! KCC is the No.1 Hotel in Burundi according to Tripadvisor

Goretti is the Manager of KCC

I love it that so many customers talk of the special atmosphere they experience – it’s because it’s the King’s Conference Centre!

One of our core values excellence in Jesus’ name – Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as for the Lord, not for people.” Other hotels might be bigger and better on different metrics, but we can be the best at customer service because we’re doing it for the King!

Please keep praying and journeying with us. There are 30 more hotel rooms and three more floors to equip. With your help, we’ll get there!

For the KING!

Simon

PS If you’re still reading, this webpage with a short video explains more what KCC is about. 

PPS Deo’s Provi gave birth to a healthy boy yesterday whom they’ve named ‘Akoravyoseneza’, which means ‘He(Jesus)hasdoneallthingswell’, just trips off the tongue!!!

GLOSimon Blog

Widow Nadine’s 6-year-old daughter died because she didn’t have £2.50 ($3).

£2.50 for a life. That is so wrong!

I tell her tragic story in this short 2-minute film.

Basically, for £2.50 ($3), Burundians can get a health card valid for three years for the whole family, which will allow them to get treatment at a government clinic without incurring crippling debts. 

Sadly, Nadine didn’t have this card to get her daughter treated, and her neighbours didn’t have the money to lend her either, so she hurriedly set about making a clay pot (her skillset) to sell… but there was not enough time, and her daughter’s ‘flu’ proved fatal.

Again, that is so wrong!

So GLO’s Christmas appeal this year is to right that wrong and provide 3000 of these vital medical cards to vulnerable families who our partner organisations have identified. 

I love this appeal because everyone can take part. Even my/our kids can afford to help a family, several even. To set a small village free from the constant fear and reality of not taking their loved ones to a hospital (because it’s too expensive) would be approximately £125 ($150). Let’s stop Nadine’s story being repeated.

What do you want for Christmas this year? I know what I want – to save lives – this will be my gift! 

I invite you to join me, be it for one family, ten or a hundred – every single one counts.


Thanks for journeying with us. We’re so grateful!

Simon Guillebaud

PS If you are looking for a meaningful and impactful Christmas gift idea, for yourself or a loved one, GLO has a great range of alternative gifts that will help lift families in Burundi out of poverty – do click here to see them.

PPS In the happy event that we meet our goal to provide 3000 health cards, we’ll make sure any additional donations are put to equally invaluable use, distributed to where the needs are greatest. Should you wish to specify a Christmas gift to a specific project or partner, please use this form: www.greatlakesoutreach.org/give-now/

GLOSimon Blog

I’ve watched this three times now, and cried the first two. It’s just so beautiful! Honestly, please watch it, you won’t regret it! It goes down as one of the top ten meetings of my life… 

So here is a huge thank you to those of you who responded to last week’s email.

Actually, the point of the email was to highlight the grace of God as the foundation of our lives during times of crisis, as evidenced so beautifully by many of our precious Burundian brothers and sisters; not to ask for money – that was just a PS at the end, offering you the chance to help out with the 30 KCC staff who had taken a 40% pay cut in solidarity together because of the Covid crisis, and were now struggling simply to live.

But wow did many of you respond…

…and so to this short ‘thank you’ film. Just look how folks reacted when they received the best news they could possibly have dreamt of… There were very few dry eyes left – but this time the tears weren’t of distress, fear, or sadness, but of unadulterated joy. And I invite you to feel free in shedding your own tears of joy as you watch as well.

Again, thank you, thank you, thank you! And thank you Lord!

Simon Guillebaud
www.greatlakesoutreach.org/donate

PS If you found the video uplifting, feel free to share it:
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