Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What a beginning!

Ross Kauffman welcomes guest speaker Deo Niyizonkiza
 What a way to begin the academic year.

First, “Strength in What Remains” was assigned as required reading for all first-year students and student leaders. Then, the protagonist of the book, Deogratias Niyizonkiza - who escaped Burundi genocide with little more than his life, who landed in NYC knowing no English, who thanks to the kindness of strangers learned the language and earned degrees from Columbia and Harvard Universities, who returned to Burundi to serve his people - spoke during Opening Convocation.

He also spoke with first-year students during a Monday evening orientation event. Following which a student posted a link to the Village Health Center in Burundi on the university Facebook page with the comment:

“Thank you Deo for coming to talk to us!”
Founders Hall was filled for Opening Convocation. Along with faculty in academic regalia, first-year students, returning students and staff, many community members attended the presentation, including two couples from First Presbyterian church in Findlay. One of the men shared in the Faculty/Staff Lunch (paraphrased)
“We read ‘Strength in What Remains’ in Sunday School. We never imagined that we would have the opportunity to hear Deo speak in person. This has been an awesome experience."
The entire journey Deo shared was both horrifying and amazing, to see this soft-spoken individual say matter-of-factly “I have such a scar” after showing images of beaten and burnt survivors. He has and is now working with community members, governments and philanthropists to build a water tank, a health center, a community center and a road to provide access to all.

For too many of the examples he shared, an important “medical treatment” was to provide clean water to drink and nutritious food to eat. I cannot even get my mind around that concept.

Deb Simon-Heinfeld, aka @debBlufftonAGE, tweeted, “Vote for Deo (Bluffton University's Convocation Speaker) to win 10K for his work! GQ + The Gentlemen's Fund - Nominees

This speaker appeared to touch hearts and minds in a special way to start off the new academic year. It’s going to be exciting to see what comes next.

News release

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