I’ve read so many African migrant stories that open very similar to this one. African migrant arrives in newly adopted country, penniless, but full of hopes and dreams for themselves and for the people back home. Jacques Sebisaho blogs his story at Huffington Post:

In 2002, we came to the United States with no possessions, no money, and no English, and eventually made a new life for ourselves in New York. But the pull of Idjwi is strong. We visited whenever we could afford to and treated patients for free. This helped, but the people of Idjwi needed more than occasional visits by a fly-in doctor.

But somewhere along the way, either the dream is lost or we are lost along the way to chasing that dream. Our story sputters and becomes stuck in the gutter of the pursuit of a better life. Perhaps more tragic, is that we go silent in our struggle. We, as Africans, need to be vigilant in the telling our stories, of our struggles, failures and of victories. We need more endings like this:

Today, that’s no longer the case. Since my wife and I returned to open a clinic in northern Idjwi in 2009, we haven’t recorded any maternal or child deaths. Four years ago 50 percent of people suffering from cholera would die; all 129 cases we treated for cholera survived. We have been serving 150 children from more than 100 families in our nutrition program. The program, coupled with the introduction of “one garden per family”, has decreased malnutrion [sic] in the two villages we serve; in fact, we haven’t recorded any severe malnutrition cases in the last eight months.

That’s the power of the “reaspora.” You can find out more about Jacques‘ work here. Thanks to Dr. Laura Seay for pointing me to this.

via In Eastern Congo, The Little Island That Could | Jacques Sebisaho.

  1. A great and inspiring story. It truly represents a life-trajectory that most diasporans aspire to when they leave their home countries to seek better fortunes in far-away lands. As you correctly point out in your piece, at times this dream is lost along the way due to various pressures, it is indeed aspiring that Dr. Sebisaho managed to put his community ahead of self-interest.
    It is also important to note here that, it becomes imperative for diasporans and other people living in the DRC to support efforts by people like Dr. Sebisaho to continue their work. We cannot afford to continually sub-contract our development agendas to international donors and relief agencies. We should be doing it ourselves, and that is why i think Dr. Sebisaho´s story is an inspiring one, it should serve as a reference point to any serious African who is genuinely interested in the formulation and implementation of genuine developmental initiatives. Thanks TMS Ruge for sharing this story. Its one story that deviates from the nrom of people who write long articles saying we should have a discourse on Africa´s development. This story debates from the norm of having long and tiring debates that lead us to nowhere to a situation of practical action….

    • Paul, great to hear from you. I couldn’t have said it better. Especially this part, “We cannot afford to continually sub-contract our development agendas to international donors and relief agencies. We should be doing it ourselves,” — This is why I think we should be even more open about our personal journeys off and back to the continent. And I fully agree that we either support the stories that inspire us, or we use them as inspiration to start our own initiatives.

  2. Thank you for your positive comments and the inspiration you can draw from our experience. Africa needs all of us, especially those who have been fortunate outside the continent. We are not only the hope for millions, but also have all the tools necessary to make development work.

    • Jacques, your story was truly inspiring. I hope that many of us who live outside the continent and are looking for a way back home can be inspired by your work. I loved the bit about getting the local community to roll up their sleeves. It is a sad state of affairs that some Africans think development is externally triggered. This is false, development is internal, as you have successfully hown.

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