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Founder & CEO, Village Health Works



Deogratias “Deo” Niyizonkiza, visionary Founder and CEO of Village Health Works, a leading advocate for the world’s most impoverished people and a key voice in global health and international development.

Deo was born in rural Burundi, where he attended grade school and medical school. He left the country during the catastrophic war that lasted more than a decade and which took the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Deo survived not only this man-made tragedy and poverty, but also homelessness in New York City.

Deo’s life journey is told in Pulitzer Prize-winner Tracy Kidder’s book, Strength in What Remains, a New York Times best seller named one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune.

A frequent lecturer on global health, Deo is the recipient of multiple prestigious honors and awards, including The Carnegie Foundation of New York as the 2016 Great Immigrant: The Pride of America, the 2016 Presidential Medal: Amitiés des Peuples, 2014 Dalai Lama Unsung Hero of Compassion Award, the 2013 People to People International's Eisenhower Medallion Award, a 2015 honorary degree from Arcadia University, 2013 Honorary degree from Williams College, the 2011 International Medal Award of St. John’s University, the 2010 Women's Refugee Commission’s Voices of Courage Award, and the Otis Social Justice Award presented by Wheaton College in 2014. It was in 2014 that Deo was invited by Dennis M. Hanno to give a keynote address at Hanno’s inauguration as Wheaton’s eighth president. Deo will be receiving an honorary degree from Wheaton in May 2022 and delivering the Commencement Address.