Beaufort: A compassionate city, and more

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A community is truly compassionate when it works for the betterment of all its citizens and still has the energy, charity and desire to help others, even those half way around the globe.

“We are one humanity with a common destiny,” quotes Compassionate Beaufort Communities team member Mike Seymour, “which is why our mission has both a local and global face.”

 Center left: Prosper Ndabishuriye. Center right: Angie Patterson surrounded by her fifth grade students at Beaufort Elementary. At back: Mike Seymour, Compassionate Beaufort Communities member.
Center left: Prosper Ndabishuriye. Center right: Angie Patterson surrounded by her fifth grade students at Beaufort Elementary. At back: Mike Seymour, Compassionate Beaufort Communities member.

In May, Compassionate Beaufort Communities sponsored a famous peacemaker from Africa, Prosper Ndabishuriye, to address issues still confronting the people of Burundi and Central Africa. Prosper’s visit was generously hosted as he was invited into several venues to share his stories and experiences about the people he is working to help shelter, feed, clothe and  educate. Many of those he is serving are still suffering the effects of the ethnic wars between Hutu and Tutsi which in 1994-95 raged in Burundi, Rwanda and Eastern Congo resulting in the death over 5 million persons.

The Beaufort and Hilton Head area showed its hospitality and compassion and donated over $2,700 to his charity, JRMD (www.jrmd.org), short for a name in French that stands for Youth in Reconstruction of the World in Destruction. Funds raised will go to benefit the more than 450 students at a school that is part of Ihuhira Iwacu Village that will also eventually house orphan boys and girls.

More than 200 Beaufort County residents had the chance to meet, listen to, and speak with Prosper directly during his visits to the homes of Mike and Maggie Seymour, Pat Keown, Larry Meisner; St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, St. John’s Lutheran Church, the Unity Church of Bluffton, as well as the Beaufort Public Library.

Thought of by some as a Nelson Mandela of Central Africa, Prosper’s most energetic reception came from over 50 fifth grade students at Beaufort Elementary School who literally swarmed around him after his talk. A sincere thanks to teacher Angie Peterson and other Beaufort Elementary teachers for making this visit possible.

Perhaps the most poignant part of Prosper’s story, according to many, was when he and his team of young Hutu and Tutsi volunteers first formed their peace mission by showing unity to their countrymen in the form of a willingness to die for their brothers if attacked by militia from an opposing ethnic group. “If you’re going to kill him,” the Hutu volunteer would say to a Hutu soldier about a Tutsi team member, “you have to kill me first.” And, of course, this strategy of standing before the weapons of both Hutu and Tutsi killers proved a most profound and courageous act of compassion that baffled enemy attacks, touched the hearts of Hutu and Tutsi communities and become part of the movement toward reconciliation, forgiveness and peace.

There may be some who will say that charity begins at home or we have needs to address right here.  They are right and we need to continue that focus, but again, isn’t it wonderful when our compassion can go beyond our immediate local problems and walk in the shoes of others, especially those who may not even own shoes?

For more information about Compassionate Beaufort Communities, visit http://cbc-sc.org.