Return to Burundi

At Global Health Frontline News, we recently produced a television news report about an inspirational man named Deogratias Niyizonkiza, or Deo as everyone calls him.

Deo barely escaped with his life when his native country, Burundi, in East Africa, was devastated by ethnic conflict in the 1990's. He made his way to the United States, was taken in by strangers, and managed to get a first rate education.

Determined to help revive his country, Deo founded a non-profit called Village Health Works and returned to Burundi to open a health clinic. His remarkable story is the subject of the book Strength in What Remains by Pulitzer Prize winning author Tracy Kidder.

After we produced our television report, we asked Deo to contribute a guest blog.

Here it is:

"It takes more than antibiotics to tackle pervasive illness and disease. It takes more than microfinance to break the cycle of poverty in much of the developing world. It takes more than school supplies to build an education system from scratch.

Even when programs are thoughtful and well designed, the secret of success in global health and international development is simple: build a community of collaboration. Commit to being guided by those you serve and allow local talent to drive the effort forward, then collaborate with compassionate people from around the world.

When I founded Village Health Works, it was these values that ignited our work and we continue to live these values everyday. All four of our talented staff physicians are from our catchment area. All of our nurses are from Burundi. Expats collaborate with local staff on economic development, the design and execution of education programs and agricultural innovation. Experts from around the world -- all part of our global community -- contribute their knowledge and experience. Simultaneously, the local community shares their expertise and guides the development of new programs.

Last week we celebrated our second annual Community Forum, bringing together government officials, academics from around the world, diplomats and hundreds from the Kigutu community to share their knowledge and insights.

Burundians and global guests collaborated on health, art, education, economic cooperatives, addressing gender-based violence, surgery, doctor-patient relationships and architecture. It's this collaboration that powers our work.

We are only going to be successful in breaking the cycle of poverty and disease if we are vigilant about humility and committed to acting as partners -- community, public officials, staff and supporters. And it is this partnership that will transform the cycle of misery and disease into a virtuous cycle of health, peace and productivity."

That was a guest blog post by Deogratias Niyizonkiza.

To see the television news story about Deo's clinic, click here.