Deogratias “Deo” Niyizonkiza’s incredible resilience and his life’s work - providing quality, compassionate, dignified health care and education in rural Burundi, East Africa - were honored today by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
New York, NY, June 30, 2016 –– As Americans prepare to celebrate the most patriotic of our holidays, independence day, the Carnegie Corporation of New York pays tribute to the role immigrants play in strengthening our country and democratic society with its annual “Great Immigrants: The Pride of America” initiative. Deogratias Niyizonkiza, the Founder and CEO of Village Health Works, is one of this year’s honorees, part of a distinguished group that includes Google CEO Sundar Pichai, the president of Johns Hopkins University, Ronald J. Daniels, and actress and filmmaker Isabella Rosselini. Among past honorees are Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Thomas C. Südhof, the United States Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, and physician and author Abraham Verghese.
“These accomplished Americans are immigrants like our forefathers, who founded this nation of nations,” said Vartan Gregorian, President of Carnegie Corporation of New York. “They are representative of the millions of immigrants who have come to the United States for economic opportunity, education, political or religious asylum, security, or reunification with families and relatives. They, like all Americans, share a common faith in this country.”
A naturalized American citizen, Deo was born and raised in rural Burundi before escaping as a medical student from one of the 20th century’s most horrifying conflicts. Deo’s extraordinary story is told in Tracy Kidder’s New York Times best-selling book, Strength in What Remains. Deo, like so many other immigrants, worked to overcome the daunting obstacles of homelessness, poverty and language barriers. He emerged a leader in the non-profit world of health care and social justice. With the help of ordinary Americans, Deo graduated from Columbia University and went on to study global health at Harvard. While there, Deo worked at Partners in Health from 2001 to 2005 and became a close collaborator and friend of its co-founder, Paul Farmer. Deo then returned to Burundi to build a much-needed clinic with the united support of an impoverished community once torn by ethnic differences. Deo embodies all that is admired in a first generation American – hard work, determination, compassion, and a commitment to make a difference in the world. In the spirit of the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s initiative, Deo has dedicated his life to serving a cause greater than himself. He has mobilized communities in Burundi, the U.S., and beyond to work together towards peace and a brighter future. Village Health Works now provides over 23,000 patient consultations yearly, education to over 600 students from early childhood through tenth grade, and other programs aimed at alleviating poverty, strengthening communities, and restoring hope.
About Village Health Works
Founded in 2006, Village Health Works operates a community-based health center in the rural community of Kigutu, in Southwestern Burundi, East Africa, in an area where accessibility and quality of care are extremely limited. It has since expanded to include complementary programs in education, agriculture, music and the arts, and economic development to support a population of over 200,000 people. Village Health Works’ mission is to provide quality, compassionate health care in a dignified environment while also addressing the root causes of illness, poverty, violence, and neglect.