An interview with Dr. Pascal Kayishema, the Country Coordinator for CURE Clubfoot Burundi
How and when did you come to work with CURE Clubfoot? What did you do previously?
I started working with CURE Clubfoot in October of 2011 after meeting Linda Jane Hansen (Regional Coordinator/ Africa) and Esperance UWIZEYE (Rwanda Cure Clubfoot Coordinator) during a FATO Congress held in Arusha, Tanzania. I went to the same University as Esperance, the Kigali Health Institute, and I had been working in Burundi since 2008 as a Physical therapist and Director of Centre Ortho-Kine Services. Esperance is the one who recommended me. After the interview with Linda, I started to work for CURE in 2011.
My previous work was as a Physiotherapist in the cabinet (treating) starting in 2007 and also as the Director of Centre Ortho-Kine Services in terms of management (Human Resources, Finance, and Planning).
What was your experience with clubfoot before you took this position?
I heard of clubfoot for the first time at school among other congenital deformities. During my clinical placement I had experienced the treatment of clubfoot using POP (Plaster of Paris) in Gatagara. I was not very sure there would be a specific treatment of clubfoot until Bernard UZABAKIRIHO, a former University colleague and now the Counseling Coordinator of Rwanda Clubfoot Program, visited me in Burundi. He told me about the PONSETI technique and that it has started in Rwanda. I was fighting to learn it until my time came late in 2011.
What have you learned during your time with the clubfoot program?
During my time with the clubfoot program I have learned and am still learning many different things. Although I had been a Director of Centre Ortho-Kine Services (A private clinic of Physiotherapy and Orthopaedics) and I had participated in management, CURE Clubfoot Program was a little bit different. I have learned to work independently, plan my tasks, and follow their achievement and results. Monthly reports, quarterly financial reports, and training all have due dates; this challenged me on always keeping things on time to respect the due dates.
Working with babies and their moms most of the time taught me to be patient and has reinforced my need to remain flexible. Hearing people with different problems in life continues to attract me to serving God.
I have learned strategy designing and development and their implementations; seeking partnerships that have led me into many friendships has taught me to constantly be working on teamwork.
How many people serve with the clubfoot program in Burundi?
The Burundi clubfoot program serves the population with 53 people. The team is composed of 40 health workers, 11 counselors, 1 Country Coordinator, and 1 Medical Director.
How has the program grown or changed since you have been a part of the program?
The program started with two clinics, one in Bujumbura and the second one in Gitega. In 2011 the first Ponseti training was held in Kigali. This first training happened two times, one with health personnel from the clinics and another one with health personnel of the MoH (Ministry of Health), the doctors for tenotomy (tendon release).
In 2012 the program grew with two new clinics upcountry and with another training, this time combining medical and counselors. The first counseling training and medical training were both held in Burundi. In 2013, the program added two new clinics with the third medical and counseling training. The fourth medical training was held in early 2015.
From its starting, the program worked cooperatively with the MoH. It’s through the MoH we get doctors for tenotomy and also the right to get supplied by CAMEBU.
The program has developed sensitization strategies and they are being implemented. The program has earned different partners, among them World Vision in Burundi, which accepted our collaboration in sensitization this year.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face in the program?
The biggest challenge I face now is the security in Burundi because it is not stable at this time. We also have transportation issues associated with security.
What do you love about your job?
I love to see a baby come in with a clubfoot, while his entire family is so worried, some are crying and hopeless, and to see that same family with joy and hope after the baby’s clubfoot is fully corrected. I love when they come and thank the health personnel. I am very happy and proud of my professionals.
Can you tell us about your family – wife, children?
I have been married to Tabitha Immaculate MUKAMUSONI since 2011. My wife is a journalist freelance reporter for VOA. God blessed us with two children: a daughter, Gavrila, and a boy, Michael Cohen. We are Catholic Christian, and we like socializing with other friends around us. Most of our weekends are normally for children and we like to go to Tanganyika beach in the afternoon. Our children like this very much. I like being with babies after my job and playing with them.
What is an interesting fact about Burundi that we may not know or what would you describe as one of the best things about Burundi?
Burundi is a beautiful country, having the second deepest lake in the world, a lake full of many species of fish. The most liked species of fish near Burundian is called “UMUKEKE,” which is so delicious. I like it so much too. Burundians are welcoming, nice people, and they love to socialize.