Growing up in Bujumbura, Josias Ntirampeba was long interested in malnutrition and its adverse effects.
Burundi, one of the most densely populated countries in Africa, has one of the highest rates of chronic malnutrition, according to a 2018 U.S. Agency for International Development report.
This trend, compounded by long-standing conflict and political instability, moved Josias to study nutrition in more depth and to share his findings with friends and family.
“I wanted others to see the link between diet and diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease,” Josias says.
“Today, many people in my community know the value of eating fruits and vegetables, but not long ago, men would say that ‘fruits are only good for children.’
“Even if it’s hard for people to control their diet, it’s important for them to know what they should do.”
Josias decided in 2017 to host his own YALILearns session on the topic, focusing squarely on malnutrition. For the 11 people in attendance, the gathering was a fruitful one, as Josias explains.
“I think the session was a success because afterward, people at least had an understanding about the consequences of a poor diet.
“The session also helped keep me up to date in my field,” Josias says. “It gave me the courage to continue my research.”
As Josias sees it, his work is laying the foundations for a better, more sustainable future.
“My knowledge, my skills are not mine alone but are for my community,” he says. “It is better to share what you gain; even if it is little, it can help or save someone else.”
To other young leaders interested in community building, Josias recommends taking a YALI Network Online Course and learning as much as possible about their interest area.
“I would encourage every young leader to organize a YALILearns session and to review how it went.
“Even if you don’t succeed, it is essential to keep going. Don’t worry about people judging you: Focus instead on being yourself and on doing what you’re supposed to do.”
Josias, whose work thus far has focused on educating friends and co-workers, plans to share his research more broadly over the coming years.
“It is my community that helped me to be who I am, to understand myself,” he says. “All my success will be given to them.”
Find out how you can lead your own session on our YLILearns page.