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All About The Rainbow Centre

A God-inspired community family-strengthening centre with a focus on abandoned, HIV+ babies, age newborn to 2 years old, this 1 1/2 acre piece of property, called the Rainbow Centre, located in the heart of Bujumbura, the capitol city of Burundi, Central Africa, has been a haven to hundreds of babies and children since it opened in April 2002. We are quietly loving and strengthening sick and malnourished babies, many of whom are abandoned or orphaned because of AIDS.

Gates into Rainbow Centre

Inside walls of Rainbow Centre compound

A small remodeled, baby friendly house at the Rainbow Centre, it has a maximum capacity for 20 babies in residence at a time. Our focus for this baby home is to love, nourish and strengthen abandoned, orphaned, and HIV+ babies while searching for extended family, foster care, or adoptive families for the babies. Trained Burundian staff care for the babies around the clock. Many volunteers come to help feed, cuddle, and play with the babies. We praise God for the beautiful recoveries we've seen in Arms of Love.

Our community project called TWIZERE, meaning, "Let's have faith and hope!" brings together care-givers for the over 500 community babies that we are strengthening each month. Care-givers are impoverished, HIV+ widows, grandmothers, aunts, young sisters, even neighbors of the malnourished or orphaned babies. These care-givers help us by taking responsibility for the orphaned or abandoned babies, rather than just leaving them at our gate (which would be their easiest, quickest solution, but overwhelming in magnitude to us). Care-givers are referred to us by AIDS organizations, clinics, hospitals, and word of mouth. We see babies throughout the week, making sure they are receiving the milk and porridge we give. We also help the families of the care-givers with medical, legal, emotional and spiritual counselling, food, and monetary support so they can have small businesses to generate income. Often they will sell bananas or fish but it's hard going. When care-givers are AIDS infected themselves, they often are too weak to think past survival. We offer encouragement, love and acceptance in an atmosphere of trust, without judgmental prejudices. Our goal is to strengthen the whole family, many of whom are now or soon will be headed by children because of parents dying of AIDS.

Through a grant from the United States Defense Department we were able to build a two-story office/clinic building at the Rainbow Centre to help us get a pediatric clinic going. We are so thankful for this beautiful building and a wonderful pediatrician, Dr. Morgan, who oversees our babies at the Baby Home and TWIZERE. We have space to expand into a lab as well, in the future, as needed.

A 20 foot container was recently sent from the USA packed full of baby clothes, blankets, diapers, toys and an entire playground set. An 18 member ministry team from Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, led by Jay Buckhalter, came in May 2005 and along with other projects, assembled the entire playground, hauling dirt and sand to make a safe garden area for the children.

The Rainbow Centre has a small amphitheater, restored from what was meant to be a disco-bar by previous owners, where the TWIZERE groups meet. It is an all-purpose edifice with a kitchen attached. An annex which has functioned as a hostel for volunteers, completes our simple facilities. We are so happy with this place. Many who have visited the Rainbow Centre have commented on the peace and friendliness they've felt.

Burundi, located straight south of Rwanda, where genocide devastated that country in 1994, has endured a decade of man-made violence that has ripped apart the nation. Along with countless numbers of men, women and children killed at the hands of ruthless men, are those fated to a living death--the slow, sad-ending of AIDS. Statistics show an epidemic spread of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa and, here in Burundi, the upheaval of war increases the problem. Infected men and women are transmitting AIDS to newborns and then either dying or abandoning the babies, many of whom may only be carrying their birth mothers' antibodies which pass out of the system after 15 months. With a new government just elected, we hope for peace and steady transformation of this beautiful country.

Our story began in September of 1999 when God gave us a 4th orphaned baby girl, 6 day old Cindy Marie. Perfect in every way, we couldn't believe she could test HIV positive 5 days later. The day God placed her in our home He put a vibrant double rainbow in the sky radiating its glory into our yard, like a promise and blessing on this little life. We named her Munywamazi, which means Rainbow in Kirundi, and we hung rainbows everywhere to remind us of the promise of God. The rest of the story is still going on. Cindy is now HIV negative and a delightful healthy 6 year old. Because of her we wanted to help other babies. We joined with Mrs. Mathilde Nkwirikiye, Lawyer and Childrens' Rights Advocate to begin The Rainbow Centre. God provided the vision, the property, and the people to help. We are working with a wonderful team of Burundian colleagues to oversee the whole Rainbow Centre project.
We want to show the love of Jesus and through Christ-like caring and compassion, give hope. This is the true meaning of the rainbow...hope! Isaiah 61:3 puts it well..."to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."

Melli & Mathilde

Your prayers are appreciated! In fact they are the mainstay of the Rainbow Centre. We give glory to God in everything! We hope to print new brochures soon which will be available to any who request them from rfandrews@juno.com, or mellikens@usan-bu.net

With thanksgiving and praise and lots of love!

Melli Johnson


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