As 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.
Deo 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.