At the intersection of health and peace, a genocide survivor returns to Burundi | 

Burundi has some of the world’s worst health indicators, including high rates of child malnutrition and mortality. It suffered from the same genocidal catastrophe that Rwanda did in the mid-1990s.

But you don’t hear much about Burundi in aid and development circles. In this week’s podcast, we explore this enigma with Deogratias Niyizonkiza – Deo for short – a survivor of the genocide who is trying to rebuild his country through his non-profit, community based health organization Village Health Works.

Deo’s extraordinary life is the subject of Tracy Kidder’s best-selling book The Strength In What Remains. He’s without question one of the most inspiring people I’ve met this year. Tune into hear Deo discuss his escape from genocide, what it was like to arrive here penniless from a country most have never heard of (there’s a funny story there) and Village Heatlth Works’ truly grassroots community-building work.

Listen or download the mp3 below.

The most amazing story from a most neglected country | 


The East African country of Burundi is so poor and neglected it doesn’t even seem to be of interest to most aid organizations.

“We are off the map, almost completely ignored,” said Deogratias Niyizonkiza, an expat Burundian who thankfully just goes by “Deo.”

Maybe you know Deo’s story. It’s in a book by Tracy Kidder called Strength in What Remains. And maybe growing up in such a neglected place with such a violent past will explain Deo’s amazing story of survival, perseverance and ingenuity.

Maybe you want to hear more from Deo himself, which many did Thursday in Seattle at an event sponsored by Global Washington.

I wanted to talk to Deo because his story is a glimpse into a mostly neglected part of the horrific tale we may only know as the Rwandan genocide. But mostly, it’s an amazing story of how one man survived, thrived and now has returned to his forlorn country to help it rebuild itself.

Deo, Seattle host Andrew Haring, and Village Health Works co-founder Dziwe Ntaba

“He hasn’t read it,” laughed Dziwe Ntaba, Deo’s long-time friend, physician colleague and co-founder of a project in rural Burundi, Village Health Works, aimed at addressing the needs of the poorest people living in one of the world’s poorest places. Continue reading