Interview with Deogratias of Strength in What Remains

Many PTPI members and PTPI staff have recently enjoyed reading Tracy Kidder’s newest book, Strength in What Remains, and found the story very inspiring and hopeful.

In late December, we had the honor of speaking with Deogratias, whose personal journey is described in this book. Deo is the founder of Village Health Works, an organization dedicated to quality healthcare in his native Burundi. We were also joined by Village Health Works Executive Director, Sarah Broom. PTPI’s YG/University Chapter Coordinator, Ruth Gardner, led the interview and we are excited to share highlights. To listen to the entire Q & A session, click here.

photo courtesy of Village Health Works

photo courtesy of Village Health Works

Highlights from the Podcast:

Ruth Gardner (RG): We were all very fascinated by your story. Here at People to People International, we have over 80,000 members in 135 countries who have been invited to read this book. Over half of those people are students who are interested in making a difference in the world. What would you say to these students?

Deogratias (D): “What really makes us happy? When we are thinking about ourselves, or when we are thinking about others around? “

D: “Think globally and act globally.”

D: “Who are we actually, as humans? And what can we do together?”

RG: Do you have a personal motto you go by?

D: “Where there is health, there is hope.”

D: “We strongly believe that by making sure people have access to healthcare …you are providing hope.”

RG: We definitely thought the book was inspirational and it led up to a hopeful feeling. We also want to know how the book has affected your life now.

D: “I hope this book does not change me in any way, because I’d really like to see my work, you know, stay in the right direction.”

D: “I am absolutely focused on my work. Because, I don’t want to be distracted.”

RG:  Our organization’s tagline is Peace through Understanding. We believe that people getting to know each other can bring about peace. Can you elaborate on your philosophy that health can lead to peace?

D: “Every human being wants a life. Every human being wants to be healthy. Every human being wants to have good food, wants to have shelter. The way each one, unfortunately, wants to do it is different.”

RG:  What has happened with Village Health Works since the book was published?

Sarah Broom (SB): “…the book hasn’t changed the great need in Burundi and [we’re] still working as hard, even harder, than we were before it came out. We are really very focused on meeting some of the very basic needs that still exist in Kigutu.”

D: “Some patients walk for seven days, one way, to get to our clinic!”

RG: Are there any new plans, projects or expansions planned?

SB: “We are going to start construction on our Women’s Health Clinic, which will focus on maternal care. It will be for all the women and children who we see on a daily basis at our clinic. And the women, you know, there is this Chinese Proverb that ‘women hold up half the sky.’ Well actually, in Burundi, they hold up the entire sky. They are remarkable… The women are the reason for where we are today. They were the ones in the early days who showed up with their babies on their back… They were instrumental, so it feels really, really good. And, our focus is on women and children. We believe that if we can make sure the women and the children are healthy, then we are doing a lot to make sure the entire society and community is healthy. This will be a world class facility, and we are in the process of designing it now.”

RG: What is the major health issue you face with the population you serve?

D: “We have everything that is in the United States almost, in addition to what has been eradicated from the United States, like intestinal parasites. Almost every person suffers from intestinal parasites. These are really simple problems that can be eradicated through public health, through some sort of prevention, clean water, clean food…”

RG: What is the most effective way that a reader can get involved with Village Health Works?

SB: “We always have considered this work that we do a collaboration between people who share a very basic understanding of what it means to be human.”

SB: “We have a Web site with a lot of things going. I see a section with ‘Ten things you can do right this moment,’ so I urge people to go there, and there are a lot of ideas for ways people can get involved.”

To learn more about Village Health Works, please visit their Web site, To join in the conversation about Strength in What Remains, click on the Global Book Club category for book related posts.

People to People International’s Global Book Club is a way to connect with your global community. Global Book Club members communicate about valuable, international topics and gain unique insight and understanding of various cultural views in relation to those topics. For more information on People to People International, visit

The opinions expressed by PTPI staff and other book club members are entirely their own and are not necessarily the views of  PTPI or its Officers, Board of Directors and Board of Trustees.

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7 Responses to “Interview with Deogratias of Strength in What Remains”

  1. nice blog…. i am satisfy with information and content. thanks for sharing..

  2. bob says:

    Who could not applaud Deogratias’ work in his home country. His story of persistence in overcoming overwhelming human cruelty is uplifting. It is a touching story; and, yet, it is a sad reminder that man’s cruelty to man seems to be never ending. I was wondering if Village Health Works receives any funding from Partners In Health?

  3. kamanayo Eric says:

    reading this, it really inspires me, keep it up Deo, we support you in different ways

  4. Padmaja says:

    What an inspiration to mankind ! There was Hitler and then there is
    Deogratias !

  5. Hi,

    I have seen such state with my own eyes and it was indeed a horrid experience for me. Your article reminded me of those days that I spent in Bangladesh as a volunteer on an exchange programme. The work which you are doing is just great and having been there temporarily, I can say that it gives immense satisfaction.

  6. Ellyn says:

    No book has touched me as much as this one. No person has affected me as much as Deogratias. I think this
    has been an eye opening and wonderful experience, I thank Deogratias for sharing his lfe with us.

  7. Paige says:

    I think it is especially interesting that Sarah Broom says that they consider their work to be a collaboration between people who share a basic understanding of what it means to be human. I think that is a beautiful tribute to those who are a part of Village Health Works. I would say the same of PTPI and its members.

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