Deogratias “Deo” Niyizonkiza has lived an intense life few would be able to survive. After fleeing from a genocide attack in his native village in Burundi, Africa, Niyizonkiza found himself living on the streets of New York. On Feb.13 he will hold a lecture at Santa Rosa Junior College lecture entitled “Where There is Health; There is Hope: Thoughts on Community-Based Approaches Toward Social Progress.”
The experiences back home, and the usual struggles immigrants face when coming to the United States, such as language barriers and access to work, as well as housing and health care ,did not hold him back. Niyizonkiza attended Colombia University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. After Colombia, he attended the Harvard School of Public Health, then Dartmouth Medical School.
Niyizonkiza utilized his opportunities to give back to his community, and in 2005 he returned to Burundi and established Village Health Works, which provides healthcare, education and community outreach, amongst other things, to 18 African communities.
The organization believes in creating a kind environment for healthcare and tackles the origin of the community’s issues. Initially, community members pitched for money and rented a truck and medical equipment, and despite several setbacks, they worked together in achieving the ultimate goal of cultivating a hopeful future.
The language arts and academic department at SRJC has prepared the lecture entitled, where Niyizonkiza will speak about his life and give his personal testimony on being a humanitarian.
Niyizonkiza’s life is showcased in the Pulitzer Prize winning book, “Strength in What Remains,” written by Tracy Kidder.
“Where There is Health; There is Hope,” will take place on Feb. 13 at noon, in Newman Auditorium on the Santa Rosa campus.