Burundi: "WFP food helped me become a journalist"

Polio and poverty meant Apollinaire Gahungu had a difficult start to life. But things began to look up when he was sent to a WFP-supported school in Bujumbura, Burundi.

BUJUMBURA -- Today Apollinaire is a communications specialist working for the Embassy of South Africa in Burundi, with a successful career as a journalist behind him. He attributes his success to the support WFP gave him during his time at Saint Kizito school.

Apollinaire was three years old when he had polio which left him crippled. As a disabled child living in a small village of Burundi, his future seemed grim. The nearest school was 10 km away from his home in Muramvya province. His parents could not afford any kind of transport to take him to school - in fact until the age of five he didn't have crutches to walk around on. Any formal education seemed unobtainable for a Burundian boy in such conditions.

First-rate student, excellent education

A priest visiting his village, persuaded Apollinaire's parents to send him to Saint Kizito in Bujumbura. He arrived in September 1971 - a day he claims to remember as if it was today. He stayed until he completed his primary education at the age of 15. A first-rate student he performed well and ended up getting an excellent education.

WFP still assists the children of the Saint Kizito institute. Seventy-five percent of its 223 current students are physically disabled; the others are poor children. Apollinaire's case is an inspiring example of the benefits and the opportunities that WFP's food gives to some of the most vulnerable children in Burundi, a country where 90 percent of the population lives on less than US$1 a day.