Rwandan Student at Hendrix to Receive Life-Changing Surgery

Samson Ndindiriyimana

CONWAY, Ark. (February 12, 2014) – Hendrix College sophomore Samson Ndindiriyimana is studying physics through the Rwanda Presidential Scholars Program, a Hendrix-led and Clinton Foundation-supported consortium of 18 U.S. colleges and universities that work with the Rwandan government to provide four year, undergraduate scholarships to Rwanda’s best and brightest students like Samson.   

Samson’s dream is to become a civil engineer. He is also deaf.

After surviving the Rwandan genocide, Samson was seven when he contracted meningitis in a refugee camp rendering him deaf and blind in one eye.

Despite these disabilities, he made up his mind to gain the best education possible. 

With very few resources for deaf students in Rwandan primary and secondary schools, Samson received no accommodations during his education in Rwanda. At the same time, he tutored hearing-able students in math and physics. When Samson earned the highest score on the National Exam and was selected for the Rwanda Presidential Scholars Program, it gave hope to the deaf community of Rwanda.

Hendrix prepared to receive Samson in fall 2012 by finding a translation service so that he can receive real-time interpretation of lecture and discussion during his classes. He was placed in a residence hall with students eager to perfect their skills in American Sign Language in order to support his efforts to become fluent in his fourth language (Kinyarwanda, French and English being the first three). He has also found voice therapy at the University of Central Arkansas to be helpful in his pronunciation of English and improved his lip-reading skills. Samson has been welcomed by the community and found a niche in social groups.

With help from Hendrix and central Arkansas community members, Samson began a series of tests in August 2013 to determine if he is a candidate for a cochlear implant. 

Most people – approximately 95 percent – of people who lose their hearing through meningitis cannot receive cochlear implants due to hardening of the bones. 

But after enduring many tests, consults and insurance concerns, Samson discovered he is a candidate for the implant. 

The implant surgery, scheduled for late March at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, will not completely restore Samson’s hearing, but it will give him the ability to hear sounds he hasn’t heard in 18 years. He is thrilled to think that he will be able to actually hear conversations and alarms clocks and music. It’s been so hard to miss music, he says. He can’t wait to join his church choir.

While he plans a career in engineering, he also plans to make great use of his returned hearing by helping others in similar situations have better accommodations and support in school. He has applied for grant funding through the Odyssey Program to study institutes and schools for the deaf throughout the East African Community. 

Samson’s student insurance will cover 80 percent of the cost of surgery. Students and other Hendrix community members are hoping to raise money to make up the difference. For information on how to support Samson, contact Dr. Sarah Lee, Rwanda Presidential Scholars Program Coordinator, at 501-505-2955 or lees2@hendrix.edu.

Founded in 1876, Hendrix College is a national leader in engaged liberal arts and sciences education. For the sixth consecutive year, Hendrix was named one of the country’s “Up and Coming” liberal arts colleges by U.S. News and World Report.  Hendrix is featured in the latest edition of Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think about Colleges, as well as the 2014 Princeton Review’s The Best 378 Colleges, Forbes magazine's list of America's Top Colleges, and the 2014 Fiske Guide to Colleges. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. For more information, visit www.hendrix.edu