Aline Nimbesha, 18, was just five years old when the civil war started in Burundi in 1993. Her parents had already been killed when she too was attacked by the rebels.
After her parents' death young Aline had been rescued by her aunt and together they escaped into the bush. But unfortunately they were still found by the rebels and brutally beaten. “I saw people running; they were fleeing rebels with machetes. I am not sure exactly what happened, but they got me," she recalls painfully.
I have a scar on my neck from the machete they used to attack me, and marks still on my head where they hit me with stones once I had fallen.
Aline awoke in Ruyigi hospital, unaware of how she got there. She had suffered severe injuries, but at least she was alive, and was overjoyed to hear that her aunt - her only remaining family member - had also survived and was living in the camp for those who had lost their homes or families.
Aline had to spend a long time in hospital and it was there that Maggy - the founder of Maison Shalom, a project which looks after those orphaned by the war - started to visit her and support her through her recovery.
However, Aline explains, “even after a long time, my wounds just wouldn’t heal”. The hospital regretted that there was nothing more they could do, so she had to leave and go to find her aunt to live with her in the camp for the homeless.
Despite being very weak, Aline still had to go to the hospital twice a week, but fortunately when she was struggling to walk back to the camp one day she met Maggy on the road. Aline remembers, “She simply told me to get in the car, and she took me to the Maison Shalom village, and looked after me.” Aline’s head wound healed but her neck wound was more serious and couldn’t heal. Still, Aline recounts how Maggy would not give up on her: “Maggy took me to Germany for treatment. I was in Germany for almost two months. I have stayed in Maison Shalom ever since.”
Aline now works baking bread in the Maison Shalom guest house. “I was happy before with my family. After I was attacked I thought my life was nearly finished, I thought I would not be able to recover. But now, I see it as a miracle. Maggy has replaced my own mother.
Maison Shalom enabled Aline’s recovery, but has given her hope and purpose in life after losing her family.
I am very proud of Maison Shalom, everyone here has a good heart to help children in difficulties. The work that they do makes a very big difference.
The project is constantly expanding, soon to open a new hospital, “which will help our society as a whole, not just the orphans,” Aline enthuses. More than anything though, Aline desperately hopes there will not be another war: "If we were to return to conflict, it would be catastrophic, even more than it was before. But people remember the last one, so it will be less likely to happen again. I hope they remember the last one.”