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“Where there is Health there is Hope”
elisabeth yancey 12 courtney murray 11 staff writers
January 28, 2010

Deerfield admonishes us time and time again to be “worthy.” So how are recent alums fulfilling this call to action?

Jennifer Natenshon ’08 is currently working with acclaimed author Tracy Kidder in his efforts to raise money for the health care clinic Village Health Works. Village Health Works is situated in the small East African country of Burundi. The clinic denies no one who comes to their doors and assists even the most impoverished in all their health needs.

Village Health Works has provided care for over 28,000 patients since its opening in 2007. The clinic supplies food, physical and mental health care, shelter, and clean water to all, but more importantly instills hope in others for a better future. The clinic’s motto is “Where there is health, there is hope.” The clinic promotes the idea that all deserve the best health care there is, and all can go on to better the world if they receive this care.

Although Natenshon ’08 has never traveled to Burundi herself, as she has no medical training or specific skills that could be directly used at the clinic, she helps to support Village Health Works through fundraising in the U.S. She recently raised $7,000 for the clinic.

“It is amazing the response you can get if you just ask,” said Natenshon. To raise money she has held two fundraisers pulling from the community’s interest in the project. This interest is where Mr. Kidder’s incredible work as an author plays into the picture.

Mr. Kidder is a Pulitzer Prize winning author of nine non-fictional untold tales. He spoke at Deerfield in 2008 alongside renowned medical anthropologist Paul Farmer and discussed his book Mountains Beyond Mountains, a story which highlights Farmers work with the Partners in Health Clinic. Now, Mr. Kidder’s latest book, Strength in What Remains, follows the story of Deogratias, the founder of Village Health Works and native of Burundi.

By sharing such remarkable stories, Mr. Kidder urges others to help genuine causes without pushing them to donate.

As Natenshon explained his unique gift, “He finds stories he connects to. He doesn’t necessarily offer a solution but has a gift of guiding people to a story they may not have heard told.”

On January 9 Kidder held a reading from his newest book, Strength in What Remains at Natenshon’s parents’ house in Greenfield. Many gathered to hear excerpts from the story of Deogratias, who, after living through a devastating civil war, founded Village Help Works. Deogratias’s younger brother Asvelt Ndwumwami ’08 was Natenshon’s classmate at Deerfield and her connection to Village Health Works and Mr. Kidder’s work in supporting the clinic.

Natenshon has come to know Mr. Kidder over the past two years as someone she highly respects and, as she puts it, “just a great guy.”