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Pathologies of Power


Deogratias Niyizonkiza: An Example of Self-Actualization

"What a man (sic) can be, he must be," so said Abraham Maslow the proponent of the theory of self-actualization. I remember reading that Maslow thought that few people got to the full potential of their capabilities when it came to be self-actualized. Well, Maslow never met Deogratias Niyizonkiza. 

Deo, as he is often called by his friends, is an individual who fled the genocide in Burundi, against all odds escaping with his life only to find himself homeless in New York City. Tracy Kidder shared his story in his book about Deo, being recognized as someone who returned to his homeland, educated as a medical doctor and credited with saving a nation. How is that for being self-actualized?

On commenting about his life in New York City and living in Central Park, Deo says,"I was struck by the beauty of Central Park, even though I was stuck sleeping there: 'Just look at the benches, how nice they are!' It took seeing life here for me to craft my vision of what I wanted to create back home." After completing medical school at Harvard, Deo returned to the continent of Africa.

Over twenty years ago, he met the revered Paul Farmer who passed away earlier this year. As a medical doctor and anthropologist, Farmer specialized in what has become termed Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights and the New War on the Poor. Together Deo and Paul worked in Rwanda sharing their vision of a more equitable future for all people. It was in Rwanda that Deo realized that a new vision was needed in his native Burundi, and he set out to create that reality in Kigutu, where he set up the Village Health Works.

Paul joined the team as a founding member of the Board for this new approach to healthcare. As Deo indicated in a tribute to Paul, "The same understanding that wellbeing should not depend on accident of birth is the driving force behind all of our work, including the construction of the new Kigutu Hospital and Women's Health Pavilion. The new hospital is pictured above. It is amazing, isn't it?

Join us in celebrating Deo's contributions to healthcare, holding tight to a vision that almost seemed impossible to achieve. Deo has done this with a deep belief in humankind, social justice and an understanding that being self-actualized means that you can put compassion into action.

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This message from Marilyn Turkovich, Executive Director of the Charter for Compassion, appears in our 10/15/2022 weekly newsletter. To sign up for our newsletter, scroll all the way down to the end of this page to get to the bottom menu; in the newsletter section, enter your email address and click on subscribe.  

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Monday, 29 May 2023
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