A new report from the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network ranking the world’s countries from top to bottom based on happiness, reveals Denmark as the happiest country in the world, the least happy being Burundi.
The U.N. used several criteria to determine these numbers, including gross domestic product per capita, social support, health and longevity, personal freedom, charitable giving, and perception of corruption.
Burundi, according to these categories, weighs in as the unhappiest country of the 156 measured.
Even so, Elavie Ndura, George Mason University education professor and fellow for diversity and inclusion says there are plenty of reasons for Burundians to be happy.
She attributes much of the happiness she has experienced in Burundi to its sense of community.
“A major source of happiness for the Burundian people is time spent with and around neighbors. That’s when you can see them come out of their shells, socializing with family and sharing whatever food they have.” said Ndura.
Burundi is one of the poorest, hungriest countries in the world, plagued by civil war and genocide in the past and suffering from a failed coup just last year.
Ndura, 60, was born in Burundi and still visits often as part of her peace building work, providing professional development for all levels of educators.
Though their conversations and stories may be difficult to tell because of conflicts Burundi has undergone, Ndura says that Burundians still sit down together and share them, often talking for hours just to be together for these moments. Ndura said, “The point is that they are together among relatives and neighbors and commiserating, listening and cheering one another up. It’s the loud laughter that always rings in my mind when I think about how the Burundian people like to spend their time.”
Ndura praises Burundi too for its generosity and simplicity: “People are willing to share the minimum that they have. You know people are very humble. They don’t ask for much.”
She explains that it is when she travels to Burundi that she feels the most happiness. “You see them congregating together to chat, to share a bottle of beer and some food. And even though it may not be enough for everybody, they share whatever they have with loud laughter. They are happiest” says Ndura.
For now, Ndura continues to work for peace in Burundi. Her dream is to put together a “peace caravan” engaging the youth of Burundi in the work through musical performances, sporting events and more to bring the cause of peace to the forefront of community awareness.