Reading Together

What if the entire community read the same book at the same time? Read and discuss Tracy Kidder’s Strength in What Remains with people of all ages and walks of life.

A Thank You Letter from Deo




June 9, 2011

Dear Friends of Kalamazoo,

It is from the bottom of my heart that I relay my thanks to Kalamazoo Public Library and the Kalamazoo Center for Social Justice for helping to coordinate Kalamazoo’s recent reading of “Strength in What Remains.” The invitation you sent us to hear about Village Health Works in Burundi and the warm welcome you offered us last month made us feel at home.

It is critical that communities around the world come together to support those that have been forgotten. This, I believe, is how we can measure world progress. From Kigutu to Kalamazoo, we all have a role to play in making the world a place of peace, health and hope. This is why we created Village Health Works. Our Village Health Works (VHW) project in rural Burundi is many years overdue and is in the perfect place for everyone who truly wants to make a difference in the world. When I think of the unspeakable misery in that country so badly forgotten and still off the map, I always wonder: what have the poor Burundians done wrong to deserve such kind of punishment? But that misery also can be looked at in another way: as a test of morality for those who sit idly by watching what happens and choosing to do nothing about it.

In the 21st century, letting some of our world citizens lag centuries behind is a serious challenge to social justice and a threat to human progress as well as global peace.

Although there is no shortage of woes in Burundi, there is no shortage of opportunities either. There is always a reason for keeping hope alive when I look at how VHW has brought so much joy and hope to the lives of our community members in such a short time and despite the meager resources and other challenges we have faced.

The mission of Village Health Works is to become a center of excellence for healing and teaching for our world so that existing conditions that have dehumanized Burundi for so long can shift into ones that favor life. There is no question in my head that this mission will be fully accomplished. All it takes is a community of compassionate people who, arms linked, get together to understand the world as it truly is.

When one does good after seeing with an open heart and mind what we eyewitness and deal with on a daily basis in Burundi, it is a humane act, more about what makes us all human than being generous.

You have dearly recognized that fact, and I trust that the event you organized in May 2011 to hear more about our work was the first step in an important collaboration between your Kalamazoo community and our growing organization. So, whatever you do, keep us in mind and let's make a difference together.

With many thanks,

Deogratias Niyizonkiza, Founder, Village Health Works.

P.S. Please continue to follow our work by visiting us at


PO Box 75 New York, NY 10013 | 917.546.9219 |

Download Deo’s original letter PDF


Village Health Works
Reading Together Steering Committee

By the Numbers...

Although there is still one more Reading Together related event in 2011, I wanted to report out on the success of the program. Check out these numbers!

• Over 1,700 copies of the book and audiobook circulated

• Over 800 readers attended the Tracy Kidder program on March 10 at Chenery Auditorium

1,063 patrons attended one of the 13 events with an average of 82 at each event!

The above numbers show that over 3,500 individuals either read Strength in What Remains, attended an event or both. So if you average this number over the six weeks we celebrated Kidder’s novel, over 580 a week participated in Reading Together! This does not even include the many community book clubs and partnering libraries who hosted events.

I would like to thank the Steering Committee, Community Partners, and Sponsors for making it another great year.


Strength in What Remains
Kevin King

Kidder kicks off Reading Together with a challenging message.

Over 800 fans of Reading Together and this year’s selection, Strength in What Remains, packed the Chenery Auditorium on March 10 to hear the author Tracy Kidder speak. This year the annual author visit signaled the kick off to KPL’s community reading program. Kidder spoke eloquently of not only his relationship with the book’s subject, Deogratias ‘Deo’ Niyizonkiza, but also the mythic journey of hope and forgiveness that Deo experienced. The presentation touched upon other timely topics in relation to world health, poverty, and what society can do to make change happen. In addition to speaking, Kidder shared a variety of photos that showed both the beauty of Burundi and the many residents whose lives have changed from proper medical care.

Many attendees commented on the way out that thought Kidder was “fabulous” and that his words really inspired them. I know that I heard Kidder’s challenge to work towards asking our leaders make world health an important issue to tackle. If you attended the event, we thank you for participating and hope that it enhanced your reading of Strength in What Remains. There are still many more great events in the coming weeks that will further your enjoyment of the book.


Tracy Kidder
Kevin King

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2011 Press Coverage

May 17, 2011
Reading TogetherReading Together
Deo has known horror & misery...
May 15, 2011
WMUK InterviewWMUK Interview
Gordon Evans speaks with Deo
March 11, 2011
Large CrowdLarge Crowd
To kick off the 2011 Reading...
March 9, 2011
Meet the AuthorMeet the Author
Pulitzer Prize-winning author...
March 6, 2011
WMUK InterviewWMUK Interview
Gordon Evans speaks with Kidder
February 27, 2011
More than FactsMore than Facts
Tracy Kidder wanted to be...
February 27, 2011
A JourneyA Journey
“A journey through horror to hope...”
February 24, 2011
Natural SelectionNatural Selection
Choosing “Strength in What Remains”
August 25, 2010
Book AnnouncedBook Announced
Kalamazoo Public Library announc...