Music brings hope to Burundi children/youth refugees, as they drum away despair.

Tuesday 18 April 2017

By Annet Birungi- Communications Manager/SCI Rwanda


14 April 2017 -When Desire Ngarukiyintwari, a young Burundian is handed a drum, his face lights up. He is one of 100 youth and children at the Save the Children supported youth and child friendly spaces. Since 2015, these spaces in the camp of Mahama have provided recreational space for children aged 5 to 18 years old. The Umuco w’Abarundi Club   is based in the center of the camp, and at present has over 100 children and youth enrolled for music, dance and drama activities.

Desire Ngarukiyintwari- Leader of Umucyo w'Abarundi Club

The founder of the Club, Desire Ngarukiyintwari, is a refugee youth from Burundi whose life was transformed by the opportunity to voluntarily teach dance and music in the camp. He explains that his biggest challenge now is the increased responsibility he feels for the club.

In the heightened tension and violence in Burundi the club has taken on even greater importance. As noted by Desire, “music, dance and drama’s beauty is always making peace. When you dance or sing beautiful lyrics, you find coexistence; it breaks walls of despair down.”

Ingoma means “drums” in Kirundi, but more than the drumming is taught at this child/youth friendly space. Children can also learn how to play other tradition musical instruments like Inanga (a traditional oval-shaped harp that is made out of wood with strings tied at the edges), Umuduli, Iningiri as well as Amakondera.

I met with Desire at the camp “I always dreamed of teaching playing musical instruments to children but I never thought I would be of importance in situations like this. I hope to transfer it to other generations at this camp and beyond,” he explained.

 At the camp of Mahama, I met two children benefiting from club. Jean Marie, 14, plays the drum while Louise, 9, is a dancer. The children are well aware of their good fortune to practice music and dance. “There are many children of my age in displacement situations like this who don’t have this chance I was given,” says Louise.

 Another child, Niyonzima Ernest, 11, has made remarkable progress in just six months and his trainer, is surprised at how quickly he is learning.

While maintaining focus and motivation can be very difficult in the camp’s living circumstances and the surrounding areas, the child/youth friendly spaces offer a ray of hope and practical support in terms of psychosocial rehabilitation to children and youth.


Having trained these children since 2015 to empower them deal with anxiety, isolation, and psychosocial healing, this new idea was a great opportunity to also create a change in the lives of Burundian refugees’ children through music.

 “Music opens up a child’s eyes, ears, heart and soul and gives them the ability to step into a life of prosperity. It has been proven that when a child is provided with music education, it leaves a profound effect on the rest of their lives,” says Telesphore, a volunteer at the center.

Telesphore says that the school is there to serve as a way forward for the children to explore their creative potential in a safe space away from their day-to-day challenges.

 Motivation behind the club.


Talking to the instructors of the club, Desire, the club aims at giving hope to the children, so that they can feel loved, fit in society and be of significance in the future. “We wanted kids who are passionate about music to enroll for practice,” he says.

 Some of these children are known to have been born with HIV, others are separated or came unaccompanied but with the music lessons, they are always happy and jolly that no one can ever tell their troubles.

According to Desire, these kids are miserable but with music lessons, they are able to sooth their worries and troubles away.

“Although most of them are acquiring basic education from their care givers, they still lack after-school programmes,” Desire says.

He adds that most of the children were found talented in different ways and showed interest in exploring their talents.


Since the beginning of Burundian Refugee influx to Rwanda, Save the Children has been supporting refugee Children and their families with a number of interventions that include: Health and Nutrition, Education and Child Protection Programmes. It is under Child Protection Programme that Child and Youth Friendly Spaces were established.