Deo to Packed House: ‘You Can Change the World One Person at a Time’

By Purnell T. Cropper | October 14, 2011

Stiteler Auditorium was packed as Deogratias “Deo” Niyizonkiza, founder of Village Health Works in Burundi,  talked about his journey to bring health care to impoverished communities, a world journey that included surviving a massacre at a Burundian hospital and arriving penniless in New York. View slideshow.

Niyizonkiza, the main character in the critically acclaimed book Strength in What Remains, by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder, spoke on Oct. 13 to an audience that included hundreds of first-year and new transfer students who read the book over the summer as part of New Student Orientation. Niyizonkiza is the 2010 recipient of the Women Refugee Commission’s Voices of Courage Award, which recognizes individuals who have overcome immeasurable odds and give back to their communities.

“It was an amazing experience,” said President Carl (Tobey) Oxholm III, “to be in a theater packed to capacity, with everyone listening intently to every word from a person who was so humble, so thankful, and so much to be admired for what he had achieved. His life story reminds us that we all get to where we are thanks to the assistance of friends and complete strangers doing small but life-changing acts of kindness. He challenged us all to ‘take it outside’ the classroom and outside our campus, to our surrounding communities and to far-off places in the globe that have never heard of the U.S., much less Glenside. ‘You can change the world one person at a time,’ Deo said, ‘by helping to free people from misery and giving them hope.’ Each of us can surely help do that.”

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