by Jess Cropsey
If you are a regular reader of our blog, you’ll know that I’ve made several attempts to intentionally give our kids opportunities to interact with Burundian kids. This is easier said than done believe it or not and the North American bubble that we often live in can be challenging to burst! At the beginning of the school year, we tried taking our kids once a week to the local elementary school for a French or Kirundi class. I wouldn’t say it was a home run success and it certainly didn’t foster relationships with other Burundians like we had hoped (either because interacting was just not part of the class and/or because our kids were all sitting together in the back row).
Sometime in mid-December I starting mulling around the idea of a bilingual class (English-Kirundi) once a week that was comprised of our “bazungu” kids and Burundian kids. After some thought and discussion, we decided to drop the weekly visits to the local school and give this a whirl. We started in mid-January and have had about 6 classes so far. The Burundian kids were chosen from the local community and I personally know each of their parents. These kids all live right at Kibuye (with one exception), their parents work for the hospital or the school, and they all attend our local church. We have roughly equal numbers of bazungu & barundi, with ages and genders matched to some degree. Here are 6 of the 9 Burundian kids who are part of the class, enjoying a take-home balloon on that particular day.
The primary purpose of the class is to encourage cross-cultural relationships in an environment that is a little less intimidating [at least for our kids], with some structure, but a limited number of kids. The secondary purpose is for the kids to soak up as much of the second language as possible (English for the Burundians & Kirundi for our kids).
I recruited Thérèse, the lady who has been helping teach Kirundi to our kids, to co-teach the class with me. It’s a great opportunity for all of the kids to function in both a teacher and learner role as they help each other with language. Here’s Micah & Bryce taking turns giving each other instructions about how to dress the doll.
Playing a little Twister & Candy Land to practice our colors.
While I feel very unqualified to be doing this, it’s been fun and challenging to plan for this class and so far it has gone pretty well. Outside the classroom we’ve had some discouraging moments of…
Me: “Hey, that’s ____. They’re in your bilingual class, remember?”
Kid: “Really? She looks different here at church.”
But we’ve also had some great moments of others seeing a particular kid while they’re out & about and saying, “Hey, that’s so-and-so!” followed by a greeting. Or, "Hey they're playing that game [with the bricks and ball that we learned together in class]!". Warms my heart and gives me hope to keep trying. :)
While I know there's no perfect solution, perhaps this third attempt is the closest yet in enabling our kids to develop relationships with kids from very different linguistic & cultural backgrounds. Pray that we'll be able to love these kids well despite our limited ability to communicate and that they'll form a special bond with each other.