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Strength in What Remains

A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness

By Tracy Kidder
15-minute read
Audio available
Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness by Tracy Kidder

Strength in What Remains (2009) tells the story of a man who, after fleeing war-torn Burundi, is able to make his dreams a reality with the help of a few kind souls. By following his story, you’ll learn all about how the small actions of a few good people can make a huge difference for a community on the other side of the world.

  • Anyone interested in refugees' stories 
  • People curious about the Hutu-Tutsi conflict
  • Established and aspiring philanthropists

Tracy Kidder has received many awards for his work, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Award. He’s the author of Among Schoolchildren, The Soul of a New Machine and Mountains Beyond Mountains, among many other books.

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Strength in What Remains

A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness

By Tracy Kidder
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness by Tracy Kidder
Synopsis

Strength in What Remains (2009) tells the story of a man who, after fleeing war-torn Burundi, is able to make his dreams a reality with the help of a few kind souls. By following his story, you’ll learn all about how the small actions of a few good people can make a huge difference for a community on the other side of the world.

Key idea 1 of 9

Deo was a cowherd, and though violence and injustice pervaded the educational system, he excelled in school.

Deo’s background is humble. The settlements where he lived lacked electricity and a safe water supply, so infectious and parasitic illnesses were ubiquitous. Without a public health system or clinic at their disposal, the community simply had to suffer through these hardships.

He spent his youth in Burundi, where land was the only natural resource and, along with cows, the only form of wealth. The prized possession of Deo’s family was a large herd of cows. For farming and shepherding societies, such a flock was a source of prestige, and also a sort of insurance against times of scarcity.

Deo’s father built a small farm, where Deo and his siblings worked the land and tended the cows. Despite this simple lifestyle, Deo’s parents believed in the power of education, and were determined to send their children to school.

Even though Deo excelled in school, the violence and political discrimination that pervaded the Burundian educational system made things difficult. Not a day passed at Deo’s school that someone didn’t feel the sting of the teachers’ ruler or a eucalyptus branch, the punishment meted out for any and all infractions – tardiness, for example, or arriving at school with an uncompleted homework assignment.

To make matters worse, when Deo was growing up, Burundi was ruled by a succession of military dictators, all of whom belonged to a division of the population called the Tutsi. Similarly, the majority of secondary school teachers and university professors in Burundi also belonged to this group.

And Deo’s family belonged to the Tutsis, too. However, they had no political connections. For a country boy like Deo, the only ticket out of his village was good grades and a high mark on the nationwide exams administered to sixth graders. Luckily, Deo scored well enough to make the cut.

He excelled in middle school, and was eventually admitted to one of Burundi’s best high schools. There, he received outstanding grades that enabled him to enroll at the medical school at the University of Burundi.

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