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Sarah Furaha | Burundi


What do you do in your home country and what do you hope to do upon your return? In particular, with the integration of your experiences here?

I am a mental health advocate and I use arts to change my community and sensitize it to the challenges that people with mental disorders experience. It is a newer issue in my country and my organization is one of the only ones currently trying to address those challenges.  

For me the fellowship impact has already started. The way that I came here is already not the same as the way that I am now. I have started to view things from a different angle and that in order to help others, there are things that I need to learn about myself first. My mentality has changed and I feel closer to myself and my community. Now it is like the skills that I had is being enhanced day by day with the work that I am doing in the fellowship. I will go back a better version of myself. When I came here it was not easy and I had to cope with things, but love dealing with challenges and they are changing me for the better.

To answer your question, I’m sure that the way that I am using arts will be improved and that I will take someone smile every day. I want to show love where there is hate. Things are hard in my country but what matters is making people feel like they count. I liked going to Dornsife and seeing how they help the community, I saw what I want and how I want to help. In one word, the experience that I am having here makes me feel as though I have wings now, can fly, that my dreams are achievable and can be attained. You are receiving the love back as much as you are giving it.

I want mental health to be integrated into primary healthcare and into the general health system because right now it is ignored. We only have one national psychiatric hospital right now and the budget is almost nothing. I am hoping for connections to help me study more on arts therapy because in my country this is a new innovation and there is not much that I can learn about it there.

What is your favorite thing about your home country? How about Philadelphia?

My favorite thing is the community sense. The way that you feel that you belong to a family. For us, you can feel the warmth and affection of our family and even if you do not know someone personally, there is a connection to help those around you. The love of the community is my favorite.

My favorite thing about Philadelphia is that I love the houses, they are so beautiful. I wish that I was born in older times. I loved Lancaster, and I love the history in Philadelphia and how you can connect things you learn back to the history of the country and how it began.

Do you have any hobbies or an interesting fact you wish to share about yourself?

I love writing and acting. I have even played in a movie. In my country people know me from that movie. I love poetry, classical music and theatre. I love traveling, even if this is my first time traveling overseas. I love learning from and meeting new people, beginning new friendships. I also love creative arts and DIY crafting. I love making people smile through my arts.

If I were to come to your home country, what is the first thing I should eat?

We have good food, foreigners love mukeke, it is a fish that you can find in Lake Tangaika. I love it fried or just cooked with onions. It is good served with cassava bread. Also, the coffee, our coffee is very good.