Students organize dance-a-thon benefit

Deogratias "Deo" Niyizonkiza founded Village Health Works in his native Burundi. One of the organization's newest projects is a women's health pavilion, which it hopes to break ground on in 2015. Credit: Courtesy of Village Health Works.
Deogratias “Deo” Niyizonkiza founded Village Health Works in his native Burundi. One of the organization’s newest projects is a women’s health pavilion, which it hopes to break ground on in 2015. Credit: Courtesy of Village Health Works.

The Class of 2018 and the Campus Events Organization of Sweet Briar College will hold a dance-a-thon fundraiser to benefit a women’s health project of Village Health Works in Burundi. The event will be held from 9 p.m. to midnight Thursday, Feb. 12, in Upchurch Field House.

Each class and student clubs from across campus are competing for team sponsorships. The team to raise the most money by the end of the night will receive a prize. Teams must keep a dancer on the floor throughout the event. Music will be provided by DJ Wolf-Party.

Isabel “Izzy” Ahwee-Marrah ’18, who serves as the CEO secretary, first suggested the idea for the dance. She was inspired by Village Health Works founder Deogratias Niyizonkiza after meeting him through y:1, a program for first-year students. His story, told in “Strength in What Remains,” was required reading for y:1 participants, and he spoke on campus in October.

Niyizonkiza, who fled civil war and genocide to find a new life in America, spoke of his calling to improve conditions in his native Burundi, starting with access to health care. He also called the students in his audience to action in their own lives.

“I was personally moved by how humble and real Deo was in person,” Ahwee-Marrah says. “He took time to really get to know each of us at dinner and was as much interested in our stories as we were in his.”

During dinner, he explained his newest project in Burundi, a women’s health pavilion to provide everything from prenatal care to education on nutrition and hygiene, Ahwee-Marrah said. Village Health Works hopes to break ground on it this year.

The students decided to help.

“We chose a dance marathon because who doesn’t like to dance?” Ahwee-Marrah says. “The reason I came to Sweet Briar in the first place was to make a difference, and on this campus, even a freshman really can.”

To participate, sponsor a team, or for more information, contact Ahwee-Marrah at ahwee-marrah18@sbc.edu. Donations also may be made at the dean’s office. Spectators are welcome.