DECADE of BLESSINGS!
An Interview with Maria Nakafeero
Maria, think back on the last ten years. This newsletter is focused on the Women of Kabingo; we want to hear how your life has changed over the past 10 years - an insight on your education, marriage, and motherhood.
How has HFK affected your life? Where have you been? And where are you going in the future?
Before my first encounter with HFK, I had graduated from high school at the age of nineteen. I had a marital match arranged for me, as I did not have the necessary fees to continue with my education at the university. I had missed the opportunity to get a government sponsorship and my parents - peasant farmers - could not afford to pay my tuition. Thus, my dream of becoming a medical doctor was dying - slowly but surely. My future consisted only of an immediate marriage. But thanks to Hope for Kabingo, my dreams were turned into reality. I received a scholarship to continue with my education in a clinical school. I became a Medical Clinical Officers in Uganda, the equivalent of a Nurse Practitioner in the USA.
How has HFK impacted you?
This scholarship from HFK enabled me to pursue my dream, regardless of my parents’ financial situation. This also saved me from an early marriage and being a young mother at nineteen. At thirty two, I could have been a mother of six, living in the village, struggling to survive, just like many of the women of Kabingo who never had an opportunity like mine.
This scholarship not only helped me, but has also had a ripple effect on my siblings. I have been able to support my parents, and also educate three of my siblings. One of them graduated as a Medical Clinical Officer two years ago. Two others are attending the university this year; one also wants to be a Medical Clinical Officer, another wants to be an engineer. My future and the future of my family is bright! We have had the privilege to get the education that we would have never been able to afford.
In 2012, I got an opportunity to go to the USA, to accompany Mackline, a 13 year old who was going to have reconstructive surgery after being mauled by a pig when still a baby. We received so much love from our friends in the USA, both in Cincinnati and Hudson.
After accompanying Mackline for another surgery in 2014, I got the opportunity to come back to the USA and pursue a Masters in Public Health at the University of Cincinnati through the generosity of HFK’s “Friends of Maria Campaign.” In my wildest dreams, there is no way I could have afforded $40,000! To my amazement, this money was raised in a week, along with three families that offered to host me. While at UC, I also received a $100,000 scholarship from one of my professors, who currently supports other students through HFK.
In August 2015, I graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a Masters in Public Health. This was a life changing experience for me! My life and the life of my family will never be the same.
What are you doing now?
Upon graduating from UC, I returned home to my country; home to Uganda where the burden of disease is greatest. I came home to pass on the blessing and knowledge that I have acquired. Since 2015, I continue to work with Global Health Uganda on a Clinical Trial as a Transcranial Doppler Examiner
In 2017, I got another opportunity to work remotely with the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital on one of their trials called REACH - Realizing Effects of Hydyroxyurea Across Continents in the Sub-Saharan Africa as a TCD trainer. The blessings from both opportunities are immeasurable. I work remotely with a prestigious institution as CCHMC, as well as tour many African countries.
I am also married to my long-time college friend, Paul, and am the mother of two wonderful boys. Paul Okimat Jr. is three and Joel Okimat is seven months. This has been such an amazing journey - to walk with an understanding friend like Paul; a man of high character.
In summary: as Hope For Kabingo (HFK) celebrates its tenth anniversary, I cannot help but reflect on how blessed I have been in the ten years of HFK’s existence ( 2010-2020). I have seen the work of God’s hand extended to me and my entire family through our HFK friends. As we mark this anniversary, I am going to pass on the gift of education to another person - a friend - who I do not have a blood relationship with, since all those who helped in HFK were friends too.
Maybe I can also change a life like many of you - my HFK friends - have done.