DAFI Scholarship Breathed New Life into My Dreams and Aspirations

Mambo Bosco Thomas was born on February 2nd 1994 in the war-torn region of South Sudan. He was born in Marjuk, Yei, Central Equatoria. Due to the unrest and conflict in Sudan in 1994, his family faced immense hardship and danger. Just a few months after his birth, the family was forced to flee their homeland and seek refuge in neighboring Uganda. With a heavy heart, the family arrived at Bidibidi refugee settlement, a place that would become their home for the next three years. He studied baby and middle class in the refugee settlement from 1996-1997.

However, during their stay in the camp, he lost his father in 1997. The father’s death brought so much sorrow and pain to the family. “I faced practical hardships as a result of my father’s absence. Financial struggles, limited access to education and healthcare, and increased responsibilities became part of my life at such a young age,” Mambo painfully recalls.

When most refugees had started to return back to South Sudan in late 1997, my mother who was left with the responsibility decided that we should go back to South Sudan. We settled in the village of Marjuk, hoping for a safer and more stable future. Life in Marjuk was challenging, but my mother never gave up on our education. Through her unwavering belief in the power of education, she motivated and encouraged my siblings and I to pursue our studies. “To support the family financially, my siblings and I took up agriculture and bricklaying during our teenage years to provide food and raise school fees to support our education,” Mambo said.

“My hard work and mother’s support paid off when I managed to move to Yei town and I was able to complete my primary and secondary education. Despite the adversities I faced, I never lost sight of my dreams. My passion to make a positive impact in my family and the entire community burned brightly within me,” Mambo notes.

Double Tragedy. However, fate dealt the family another blow in 2016 when violence erupted once again in the newly born Republic of South Sudan. Mambo and his family were forced to seek refuge again in the very place they had left years before; Bidibidi refugee camp. “Despite the hardships of displacement, I refused to let circumstances define my ambition of becoming a health professional,” Mambo noted.

The Refugee Experience and the DAFI Scholarship

In the settlement, Mambo’s family was resettled in Bidibidi zone one, village 14. “It was a dark moment in our lives. The congestion, water shortage and heat left us all drained and hopeless. A few months later, I decided to volunteer in one of the secondary schools called Valley View to teach Biology and Chemistry. It was fun and fulfilling, since there was literally nothing to do at the time and I intended to keep my knowledge.”

The thought of the future at that time was very frustrating for the family. They had lost everything they had during the war and being in a camp was very painful. “It always brought back the old memories of my dad who had died in the same place they brought us into,” he said.

As time passed by many humanitarian organizations came to help in the camp and brought many programs in which I later participated in, for example the assessment conducted by Windle international Uganda in Trajiji primary school supported by Education Cannot Wait where I was an enumerator.

Mambo’s dedication to education caught the attention of many leaders in the camp including the WIU DAFI Scholarship team. Mambo was able to apply for the DAFI program and was selected as one of the beneficiary.

“I was granted a scholarship to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Science, majoring in Public Health, at Nkumba University. This opportunity breathed new life into My dreams and aspirations,” Mambo noted with a sense of pride and joy.

University life and Community Service

Mambo notes that during his time at Nkumba University, he became an inspiring leader who participated in many university programs and served in various positions. “I was elected as the Guild Representative Council for the School of Sciences, becoming the voice of my fellow students. Additionally, I took on the role of President for the DAFI students’ beneficiaries in Nkumba University, where I bridged the gap between the University Management, the DAFI students and the Windle International Uganda office to advocate for the rights and welfare of my fellow refugee scholars,” he noted.

Driven by passion for community service, Mambo and a group of DAFI students initiated a student-led community outreach program in Bidibidi. This program focused on giving back to the community where they carried out various activities such as promoting education, raising awareness about health issues, advocating against gender-based violence, providing career guidance, and protecting the environment through tree planting. “We moved to different refugee camps in Northern Uganda, West Nile and Western Uganda to conduct our activities among our fellow refugees in Kayak II, Palabek refugee settlement in Lamwo, Bellamelling in Moyo, Rhino camp in Arua, and Bidibidi refugee settlement.”

Triumphs and challenges

Mambo’s dedication and leadership skills did not go unnoticed. “My outstanding commitment to my studies, the community, and fellow refugees led to an opportunity to volunteer at the Bidibidi Refugee Health Centre III. In this role, I have provided valuable support and care to my fellow refugees, striving to improve their health and well-being through conducting hygiene and sanitation sensitization, nutrition assessment for both children and adults, providing mental health services including counselling, carrying out awareness on HIV/AIDS among the youth and participating in the overall public health community outreach programs scheduled by the Health Centre III,” Mambo revealed with a sense of pride and achievement.

He notes that the DAFI scholarship granted to him in 2018, has not only illuminated his mind but has inspired him and many other young refugees who now believe in the power of education in transforming society   and contributing to socio-economic development. “This program has also broadened my knowledge and honed my skills and influenced me to think on global context regarding issues related to health, environmental protection, global security and gender inclusion,” he revealed.

Adding, “As a refugee in Uganda, I have faced numerous challenges, including limited resources and opportunities. However, I have learned to embrace adversity as a catalyst for growth and resilience. Despite the obstacles, I have managed to obtain an education and engage in various community initiatives that promote health and well-being.”

“I believe that my journey is an extraordinary testament to the resilience of the human spirit. From my birth in South Sudan to my experiences in refugee camps, I have overcome immense challenges to pursue education and serve my community. With this unwavering determination and compassionate heart, I continue to inspire and make a lasting impact on the lives of those around me,” Mambo notes.

Life Goal

“My life goal is to work in the health sector. I am particularly passionate about infectious disease research, as it holds significant relevance for both South Sudan and Uganda. The prevalence of diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis in these regions highlights the urgent need for effective diagnostic methods and surveillance systems. By specializing in Disease Surveillance and Disaster Response, I aim to contribute to the early detection and treatment of infectious diseases, providing evidence-based information and notifications, ultimately reducing the disease burden on vulnerable populations such as refugees, internally displaced populations including promoting health and prolonging life.”

“By pursuing a career in Public health, I am determined to bring hope and healing to those in need. I am confident that my resilience, passion, and dedication will empower me to become an invaluable asset in the healthcare sector, and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute my skills and knowledge for the betterment of society.” Mambo conclusively remarked

Compiled by: Joseph Waninda

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