Marguerite Barankitse, better known as “Maggy,” has always lived a life out of the ordinary. She was born in Ruyigi, Burundi in 1956.
Maggy studied to become a teacher then she went on to study theology for 3 years in Lourdes (France).
When she returned to Burundi, she taught French in a secondary school in Ruyigi, and tutored students after class. Aged only 23, Maggy adopted one of her students, Chloe, who had been orphaned for a long time. In the years to come, Maggy welcomed four other children in her home. She raised them as if they had always been part of her family, without ethnic distinction.
After studying administration in Switzerland at the end of the 1980s, Maggy returned to Ruyigi, and started working as the secretary to the bishop until 24 October 1993.
In October 1993, Burundi was in tension. In Ruyigi, chaos struck on 24 October.
Maggy was forced to powerlessly witness the massacre of 72 people who were hidden with her in the diocese. The violence was brutal, but Maggy managed to convince the killers to spare 25 children. As chaos continued in the region, she welcomed and took care of more orphans with no distinction.
Faced with this situation, Maggy realised that her mission would be to fight against the hate and indifference which were ravaging the Great Lakes region, giving to her children, and to the 47,000 who would follow, an alternative to hate: it will be a home of peace and love, where the life of each and every human, and their dignity, will be respected. It will be “Maison Shalom”.
To this day, she continues to advocate for Burundian refugees so that they can retain their dignity while in exile, preparing them for a constructive return to their home country.