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5 for Good: Concord family seeks support for young cancer survivor from Rwanda

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Renee and David Burns didn’t know his age. The young boy didn’t know his birthday. What doctors knew, however, was that Siboniyo Tuyishimire, nicknamed Sibo, had Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It was 2011 when Partners in Health brought Sibo from Rwanda to Boston for a bone marrow transplant. The organization put out a plea for a host family. The Burnes had fostered kids before.”I sort of feel like fate prepared us for that email about Sibo by giving us this experience,” Renee Burns said.What she said they weren’t prepared for, was how much they’d fall in love with Sibo.”What I always say to people is he walks in a state of grace,” she said.After nine months in treatment and with the Burnes, Sibo was healthy. It was time for him to return to his village. The Burnes offered to pay for boarding school in Rwanda.”So (that) we could be assured he was getting three meals a day,” Renee Burns said. “He was getting clean water, access to health care.”The Burnes made a promise that if Sibo did well in school, they’d try to help him come back to the United States for a better education.He is now a rising sophomore. It was right before eighth grade, when the Burnes brought Sibo for an interview at the Hillside School in Marlborough. “Here’s a boy who’s gone through tremendous adversity,” said William Newman, the school’s assistant head for enrollment and placement. “He comes in with a smile that lights up a room.”Newman helped Sibo secure a scholarship despite large gaps to overcome in language and writing skills.Sibo explained what helped him succeed.”I didn’t know how I would do,” he said. “But through understanding and asking questions (of) my friends and teachers, I was able to end the semester with good grades.”High honors, in fact, and although he had never wrestled before, by the ninth grade he was a captain of the team. This spring, he graduated from the junior boarding school a true leader.”There were few students in that class that worked as hard as Sibo,” Newman said.Now the Burnes hope Sibo can continue to have opportunities.”He has exceeded every expectation,” Renee Burns said. “We don’t know what his potential is.”The Burnes’ two daughters attended public school, but Sibo must stay in private school to stay in the U.S. He has been offered placement at a school in Pennsylvania with some financial aid.”He’s going to need financial aid and financial support through the rest of high school and college and medical school,” Renee Burns said.“One day I want to be a doctor and save people’s (lives) in Rwanda just as I was saved,” Sibo said. “This education, it’s my chance to take it seriously and be able to achieve my goals.”The Burnes have set up a GoFundMe campaign to help support Sibo’s continued education. Find out how to help here.

Renee and David Burns didn’t know his age. The young boy didn’t know his birthday. What doctors knew, however, was that Siboniyo Tuyishimire, nicknamed Sibo, had Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It was 2011 when Partners in Health brought Sibo from Rwanda to Boston for a bone marrow transplant. The organization put out a plea for a host family. The Burnes had fostered kids before.

“I sort of feel like fate prepared us for that email about Sibo by giving us this experience,” Renee Burns said.

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What she said they weren’t prepared for, was how much they’d fall in love with Sibo.

Sibo

“What I always say to people is he walks in a state of grace,” she said.

After nine months in treatment and with the Burnes, Sibo was healthy. It was time for him to return to his village. The Burnes offered to pay for boarding school in Rwanda.

Sibo's Home

“So (that) we could be assured he was getting three meals a day,” Renee Burns said. “He was getting clean water, access to health care.”

The Burnes made a promise that if Sibo did well in school, they’d try to help him come back to the United States for a better education.

He is now a rising sophomore. It was right before eighth grade, when the Burnes brought Sibo for an interview at the Hillside School in Marlborough.

“Here’s a boy who’s gone through tremendous adversity,” said William Newman, the school’s assistant head for enrollment and placement. “He comes in with a smile that lights up a room.”

Newman helped Sibo secure a scholarship despite large gaps to overcome in language and writing skills.

Sibo explained what helped him succeed.

“I didn’t know how I would do,” he said. “But through understanding and asking questions (of) my friends and teachers, I was able to end the semester with good grades.”

High honors, in fact, and although he had never wrestled before, by the ninth grade he was a captain of the team. This spring, he graduated from the junior boarding school a true leader.

Sibo's Graduation

“There were few students in that class that worked as hard as Sibo,” Newman said.

Now the Burnes hope Sibo can continue to have opportunities.

“He has exceeded every expectation,” Renee Burns said. “We don’t know what his potential is.”

The Burnes’ two daughters attended public school, but Sibo must stay in private school to stay in the U.S. He has been offered placement at a school in Pennsylvania with some financial aid.

“He’s going to need financial aid and financial support through the rest of high school and college and medical school,” Renee Burns said.

“One day I want to be a doctor and save people’s (lives) in Rwanda just as I was saved,” Sibo said. “This education, it’s my chance to take it seriously and be able to achieve my goals.”

The Burnes have set up a GoFundMe campaign to help support Sibo’s continued education. Find out how to help here.

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