Maria Barumbanze, Burundi



    Maria handmakes baskets

  • Maria makes baskets
  • Buy her products in our Shop
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    As our eldest Sister, she has become an invaluable member of the SisterWorks family. Her smile and words of affection have filled a big part of our lives.

    Maria is from Burundi and came to Australia with her family in 2005. Previously, she and her family lived for many years in a United Nations-operated refugee camp in Tanzania. Maria now lives in a third-floor apartment with her son Jean Bosco and daughter-in- law Petronia and a grandchild.

    In her home country, Maria had worked for many years as a midwife, offering a vital service to the women of her community. Now, in her 80s, she still finds Australia confusing and challenging. She speaks very little English and struggles with everyday tasks such as locking the front door and catching the elevator.

    At times when her family is busy attending English classes and participating in projects to provide them with work opportunities, Maria stays indoors and spends her time weaving baskets. Traditional African baskets are usually woven with banana leaves; however, in Australia, these materials are difficult to source, so she substitutes raffia or plastic rice bags. It is a time-consuming process: she can take up to six weeks to complete a large basket.

    Maria’s favourite day is Wednesday, when she makes her way to the SisterWorks Collingwood Design Lab, arm-in- arm with Petronia. On weekends she attends the St Kilda Esplanade Market. Here she enjoys the company of a multicultural group of women, immerses herself in an English-speaking environment and communicates with her friends with smiles, sign language and laughter.

    As our eldest Sister, she has become an invaluable member of the SisterWorks family. Her smile and words of affection have filled a big part of our lives. We are both grateful and privileged to call her a Sister.