Sound of cheerful laughter fills the brown-colored building under the blazing sun in Africa. Coloring themselves with a feast of vivid hues, children pass their hopes and dreams to one another. The scene automatically brings smiles on the faces of the BATU members, who devote their time and energy to brighten the future hope of Burundi through education, using culture and art as their main medium.
Founded in 2009, BATU was originally in the name of “Books for Burundi,” which aimed to deliver fairy tale books to children in Burundi, translated in their mother-tongue language. The organization changed to the form of BATU on February 2013 to broaden the spectrum of their activities to support the education of African children.
“Unlike the past when we concentrated on the fairy-tale aspect, we hope to benefit the children in broader ways through the various medium based on art,” said Kim Yu-rae, the current president of BATU. “When we look at the current curriculum of schools in Burundi, it turned out that children receive education on general knowledge such as history or science. However, art and music lessons were not provided for them. It made us realize the necessity of giving appropriate chances for children to cherish art.”
The name BATU comes from a pure Korean word, which has the meaning of narrowing the gap between two objects. When put into English, it also indicates the phrase, “Band across the Universe.” These meanings reflect BATU’s main aim of bringing every children around the world together through education.
University students also participate in the activities of BATU through BATU University, which is an affiliated group that only consists of students who are currently attending university.
They collaborated with each other to spread BATU’s vision and aim on university campuses, engaging in various activities such as planning culture and art projects for African children, raising funds by opening one-day cafe or charity sales and preparing seminars about international development.
Through these activities, the members are able to earn invaluable experiences with children around the world. They sometimes encounter absurd incidents due to cultural differences between Korea and Burundi.
“Once we visited an elementary school located in Burundi to carry on some kind of an art project to create a huge poster using paint,” Kim said. “The children were really excited since they did not have much opportunities to engage in these activities. Everyone had a good time, but after they went back home, their worried parents came to school and asked for the purpose of it. Since the country was still suffering from civil war, the activity looked quite suspicious. We relieved the parents by explaining our true aim to them.”
Currently, seven members are participating in BATU. Even though all of them are filled with passion toward accomplishing BATU’s goal, the process has never been easy.
“Amongst all the difficulties, the most serious one is finance,” Kim said. “Since there are numerous activities that we plan, a lot of money is required to put those into action. We only receive sponsors and donations to solve our problems.”
BATU also tries to be selected in various fund businesses run by government or large corporations that fit with its motif.
It mainly focuses on Burundi located in Africa for its main working area, but plans to broaden the activities to other locations as well.
“I have been working as a member of BATU ever since I was an university student,” Kim said. “Since BATU is an organization that is soley founded under the hands of university students, I believe that we can make a huge difference altogether.”