February 01, 2011
the University’s Founder’s Week celebrations came to a close,
the lecture by Deogratias Niyizonkiza sought to put into
perspective the true purpose of Founder’s Week and our mission as a
Vincentian University. Following his lecture, Rev. James J. Maher,
C.M., Executive Vice President for Mission, and Dr. Derek Owens,
Vice Provost, presented Deo with the International Medal for his
distinguished contributions to International Good Will.
A refugee from the war-torn African nation of Burundi, Deo
delivered his presentation on the Staten Island campus in the
morning and at 3 p.m. in the Little Theatre on the Queens campus.
Throughout the lectures, Deo’s humility and honesty was a testament
to his deservedness of receiving the International Medal and it was
clear that his message resonated with the students, faculty,
administrators and staff who were present at both lectures.
left his homeland in 1993 to escape the genocide, but returned 13
years later to start the Village Health Works-Seed of Hope.
His story is the tale of Tracy Kidder’s Strength in What Remains,
the 2010 University freshman book. As Deo spoke on the topic
‘Where There is Health, There is Hope,’ he told stories about the
everyday realities, including the deplorable medical facilities,
which the people of Burundi face.
Village Health Works-Seed of Hope is a collaborative effort
between local communities in Burundi, who share the belief that all
people, including those most impoverished, should have access to
the highest standards of health in their pursuit of happy and
productive lives. Thus far, the organization has done just that,
serving over 50,000 patients since opening its doors in 2007.
Deo’s presentation caused the nearly 200 attendees to leave the
Kelleher Center (Staten Island) and the Little Theatre asking, “How
can we help?” and “what can we do?”
Deo explained, “It is conversations like these which are
necessary to get things started.” Showing an astounding slide show
that depicted the desperate need for improved healthcare facilities
in Burundi, it certainly honed in on everyone present that one
should never take things for granted.
The evening concluded with Deo’s analogy of the world as the
human body. “Even though one may be having a problem with a lung,
it may not immediately and physically affect the body,” he
said. His point, however, was to emphasize that even though
this unfortunate situation is going on in thousands of miles away
in Africa, it still does affect us here in the United States, and
the rest of the world.
When asked about his motivation to pursue the mission of the
Village Health Works, Deo replied that he believes in “life,
goodness and good people” and that “a collaborative effort can
change the world.”
For more information about Village Health Works and how you can
help, please visit www.villagehealthworks.org.
For media inquiries, please contact Dominic Scianna, Assistant
Vice President of Media Relations at St. John’s University by
calling (718) 990-6185 or by e-mail at email@example.com.