Fabrice Bizimana is even-keeled and measured when he speaks. He is warm and friendly, though rarely effusive. He smiles when he talks about his wife and two children, and his family he still has back in Burundi, the small, east-central African country where he is from.
His gentle demeanor and thoughtful presence make it easy to forget the reason he is here in the U.S. Eight years ago he fled his country during a period of civil unrest that further tore apart the world’s poorest nation, a decade after its brutal civil war. He is one of the lucky ones. Having already been to the U.S. before, he was able to get a visa, unlike thousands of others, who had little option but to go to refugee camps in neighboring countries.
Empowered Through Education
Fabrice is just wrapping up a dual Masters degree in Philanthropy and Jurisprudence at Indiana University, a feat he has pulled off while working full time for Senior1Care, and helping raise two children. It is a herculean amount of work, but through his passion for work, education, and his family, he is close to seeing it through.
Now, he is taking a larger parenting share while his wife pursues a Masters in Business Administration. “Education is number one in this house,” he says, adding that “it is one way to empower yourself and empower your family.” Education is a passion that has driven him his whole life, something he sees as a tool for upward mobility and opportunity not just for himself, but for his beloved home country.
Before Caregiving, A Successful Nonprofit
It was that drive that led Fabrice to establish a nonprofit organization over a decade ago to help youth in Burundi learn English, the language of global commerce and communication. What started out in 2011 with just 20 people teaching, has grown exponentially into a project with roughly 4,000 volunteers. To-date, they have helped over 75,000 people learn English in schools, churches, and universities. Further, the group has established 38 English libraries across the country. And that’s just the beginning. “Language is a bridge to everything else,” says Fabrice.
English is not the end goal of the group, but a bridge to economic development, personal growth, and unity in a country where people of different ethnicities would never think to even share a room with one another. The classes they teach are not just focused on the English language, but subjects like business and peacemaking. Students come together with a shared goal, which helps individuals look past political and cultural divides. And the organization is working on ways to encourage small businesses, microlending programs, and ways to make connections with other nonprofit organizations.
The Joy of Caregiving
For Fabrice, to become an elder is to become wiser, looked up to, and most notably, cared for. In Burundi, it is common for grandparents to live in the same home as their children and grandchildren, rather than stay independent. Fabrice talks fondly about having his grandparents in the home, calling his grandmother “mom,” and still going back to see them often after he left the house as an adult.
It’s why he enjoyed his time with Charlie so much, his longest-term client at Senior1Care since he joined the agency in 2018. He would go over to Charlie’s apartment in Broad Ripple, exchange stories and enjoy things like watching shows together. According to Fabrice, Charlie was a generous, thoughtful man, who would take the time to ask Fabrice about his life, his family, and everything he was working toward. And he always made sure Fabrice didn’t go hungry at his home. Charlie struggled with dementia, but his kind and generous spirit never faded even as his memory did. He would still ask Fabrice where he was from, how his family was doing, and if he wanted a bite to eat, even if his name would sometimes slip Charlie’s memory.
Over the years of working with Senior1Care, there aren’t any times he would describe as “challenging.” But he notes that it takes a certain kind of person to be a caregiver, and that patience is an essential virtue when caring for clients. He laughs as he says “it’s hard to believe the lengths you are willing to go to to care for your clients.” Ultimately, for him it’s a joy and a passion, making his often long hours well worth it.
When asked about Senior1Care, Fabrice says “It’s a different company. They respect caregivers. They value you, and who you are, and what you’re offering.” The appreciation is mutual. Last year Fabrice was honored as Caregiver of the Year at the Carmel office.
And while he continues to care for clients at Senior1Care, his sights are set beyond the agency. He hopes to continue his philanthropic pursuits in the U.S. by working with nonprofit organizations, gaining the hands-on experience he needs in fundraising and community development in order to continue the work in his home country. His ultimate goal is to continue to empower the youth in Burundi, visit frequently, and foster a bridge between Burundi and the U.S. He sees immense potential in the organization he helped found, and for the people back home. We couldn’t be more proud to support Fabrice and have him as a part of our team here in Carmel!