From a child with a disability to a Medical Doctor

15 June 2024

ismail working at the hospital.

From a child with a disability to a Medical Doctor, a story of resilience and overcome thanks to Education.

From: Dr. Sule Islaim.
To: Fr. Frido.

Re: A word of thank you to Fr. Frido, and My life Journey from a refugee child who could not walk till the age of three because of a childhood illness to a medical doctor now serving poor communities in Adjumani district comprising of refugees and host communities.

Dear Fr. Frido,
Born to refugee parents with no formal education who fled the 21 years civil war in the Sudan that ended in signing of the comprehensive peace agreement in 2005, and raised in a refugee camp in Uganda, my parents never stopped preaching to me the value and the role of education in helping many vulnerable persons who shares my story. They kept encouraging me despite our humble financial position where a meal a day was worth celebrating.

Adjumani and Moyo refugee camps.
some women at the camp carrying watwer

The refugee camp where I grew up in lacked proper medical services and facilities. I remember being unable to play with my peers because I was sick most of the time.

According to my mother, the chronic illness delayed my growth to the extent that I walked at the age of three. Due to lack of money, my parents ended up taking me to a local traditional healer. My childhood story inspired me at the age of 6 years to dream of becoming a doctor so that I can help the poor.

Aged 8 years, I landed the opportunity to start primary education in 1997 at a self-help community primary. I was taught by refugees, and emerged among the top ten in my class.

As an ambitious child, I wanted to join Adjumani secondary school. However, it was apparent that my family could not afford the school fees of Ugx 75,000 (Approximately $21). So, I happily considered Agojo Secondary School whose school fees was Ugx 15,000 (about $4.5) Plus in-kind contribution of food items. This was relatively affordable, but not sustainable for my parents. The turning point came in 2005, after excelling in my form two final examinations through a local school bursary, there was no hope for going to Form 3. Not giving up, I reported for Form 3 in January 2006. My lack came in when Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) staff visited the school.

Portrait of Joseph in his graduation

After hearing my story, the visitors forwarded my name to you, and without hesitation you offered me a full scholarship,

which subsequently opened my way to another Windle trust international scholarship for advanced level, and then Medical School at Gulu University where I graduated with Bachelor’s Degree in medicine and Surgery with the financial assistance from St. Joseph’s college Layibi and Ugandan government and moral assistance of my humble family.

Following graduation in 2016 and successful completion of internship the same year, I concerted my great efforts in working with Healing Kadi Foundation to serve the vulnerable refugee and host population in Palorinya refugee settlement, Moyo district through provision of curative and preventive services through an outpatient clinic and community outreach services. In 2019, I received a commonwealth shared scholarship where I obtained MSc in public Health and Health Promotion from Bangor University, UK. On my return in November last year, I started working with a colleague, and we have set up a medical and maternity Home, in Adjumani where we provide comprehensive medical, maternal, reproductive, primary healthcare services, and essential surgical care to the communities in Adjumani District. Our greatest efforts are also directed towards treating survivors of gender-based violence form both the refugee and Host communities in Adjumani District.

My dream has always been to serve the community the way am doing currently.

Portrait of Joseph as a doctor.

Although it is satisfying, I strongly feel that a great knowledge gap still exists between the community and public health, as a result, my next plan is to establish a health training institution that will train Clinical Officers, Nurses, Midwives, Public Health Officers and Laboratory Technicians. These are key front-line staff that are essential in averting preventable morbidity and mortality from diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhoea. Going for further studies is also within my plans in-case I get a scholarship opportunity in the future.

Words cannot express my gratitude to you Fr. Frido and the rest of your team at Jesuit Refugee services, and your donors in Germany and other parts of the world.

Indeed, God sent you for a purpose, and that purpose can now be seen in me and many other children you supported through your kindness and tireless endeavours.

“May the lord now show you kindness and faithfulness, and I too will show you the same favour because you have done this” (2 Samuel 2:6)
joseph and his family

                Yours truly,

                SULE Islaim