Work and Travel in Burundi
VOLUNTEER AND PAID WORK OPPORTUNITIES IN BURUNDI FOR TRAVELLERS
Unlike most less travelled African countries, the chances are you’ve heard of Burundi. It often gains the unwanted distinction of being named as the poorest country on the planet. Travel in Burundi isn’t common. Typically, most people who come are here to work in Burundi.
There are so many volunteer opportunities in Burundi for those who want to help the poorest people in the world. Life expectancy is low, with a significant number of people never hitting age 50. You can make a huge difference here.
Here’s our travel guide to Burundi (https://www.lonelyplanet.com/burundi), with everything you need to know.
1. Raise Awareness of AIDs in Burundi
Burundi has been devastated by AIDs and other illnesses. 20% of children die before they turn five in Burundi because of entirely preventable diseases.
You can help raise awareness of diseases like AIDs. These programs take you into different schools and community centres, where you will raise awareness and offer advice on how to prevent them.
The organisation you work for will fully brief you on the things you need to say, so you don’t need to be a doctor/nurse to participate in this type of work in Burundi.
2. Teach English in Burundi
Access to education is criminally low in Burundi. One of the most popular volunteer opportunities in Burundi is to teach English in secondary schools.
It helps if you already have some experience and a TEFL qualification, but it’s not necessary. Native English speakers will always be able to find these types of positions. It’s often difficult to find volunteers in this part of the world, so there’s not a massive amount of competition.
3. Work in Peace Camps in Burundi
Burundi has been ravaged by war for most of its history, after independence. Understandably, efforts are being made to help keep the peace. One of these initiatives involves peace camps.
These are essentially community camps, where you work on community development projects. They may involve construction work in villages. Or it could be as simple as bringing people together through various events everyone can participate in.
If you want to work and travel in Burundi and make a real difference, these peace camps can be a great choice.
VOLUNTEER WORK VISA / PERMIT REQUIREMENTS FOR BURUNDI
Burundi used to have a relatively simple visa system. If you arrived at the airport, you could get a visa-on-arrival (https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Burundi.html). Technically, you still can, but now you need to get an authorisation letter prior to your arrival. But this is essentially the same as applying for a visa from an embassy, so for practical purposes, the visa-on-arrival option doesn’t exist anymore.
Every country in the world requires a visa in advance. Due to Burundi being so poor, getting a visa from an embassy can be a pain (http://www.burundiembassydc-usa.org/crbst_7.html). That’s why if you volunteer with a major charity you will have the advantage of liaising their help in getting the visa on your behalf.
The conventional visa for Burundi lasts for three months. Long-term volunteer projects can offer you more time on your visa, though.
The only countries who don’t need a visa to enter Burundi are the six countries around it, such as Rwanda and Uganda (https://www.mofa.go.ug/data/smenu/19/Burundi.html).
SEASONAL BACKPACKER SKILLS NEEDED IN BURUNDI
Spring is the time of the main wet season. Despite it being the main rainy season, this shouldn’t deter you from visiting the country. Rain is irregular and typically falls hardest in the northwest of the country. However, some years there may be little to no rain at all. Drought is common here.
But you should assume the worst when you work and travel in Burundi. Avoid projects in the less populated areas or you could find yourself stranded.
This is a great time of year for educational projects and those in the healthcare sector, such as raising awareness in schools.
The summertime is the worst time of year to travel in Burundi because temperatures become unbearably hot. This is when most crops tend to fail, particularly with global warming extending the dry season and making temperatures even hotter.
Again, we recommend you stick to the projects given in the ‘Spring’ section as working outdoors can put your health at risk.
Autumn brings a short wet season from September to November. Again, the wet season may be irregular and shouldn’t stop you from work in Burundi.
One of the best volunteer opportunities in Burundi in autumn is community development. These projects involve working with communities to improve infrastructure and construct vital buildings in villages. For example, you could find yourself building a well to provide clean water as you work and travel in Burundi.
The winter time is another dry season until February, when the long wet season starts again. There are no specific backpacking jobs in Burundi at this time of year but help with agricultural infrastructure is always available.
Many communities prepare for this in advance of the wet season, so your help will be highly valuable. For example, some charities teach sustainable farming methods and, in some areas, support irrigation. You could be a part of that.
ATTITUDE TO FOREIGNERS WORKING OR VOLUNTEERING IN BURUNDI
Work and travel in Burundi isn’t dangerous for foreigners. The big problem is that you have to be aware of the type of work you do. Are you working in a manual labouring job that could have been done by a local? You shouldn’t because you may be helping but you’re also taking a day’s work away from someone who lives in one of the poorest countries in the world.
What you’ll mainly experience is a hard-working country filled with generous people. It’s truly heart breaking to see how generous Burundians are, despite having nothing.
This will be an experience that changes your life.
Are you ready to work in Burundi?