If you’re looking to be inspired, motivated or cared for, look no further than Medical Teams International staff member, Racheal Kyalikoba. Racheal exemplifies what is best about Medical Teams. At the time of our interview in February 2022, Racheal was working as a program manager for Kyaka and Rwamwanja refugee settlements in Uganda. She has since moved into the role of grants manager in Medical Teams’ Kampala office.

As a program manager, she led 428 staff in Uganda to provide life-saving care for refugees. She does her job with confidence, passion, heart and humor. One of her most recent successes? Dramatically improving the medical services provided in one refugee settlement, helping to save countless lives.

It’s remarkable to watch Racheal at work. Her bright smile, sense of humor and selfless leadership inspire the trust of her staff. Compassion exudes from her as she interacts with mothers and babies. The strength of her faith is ever-present.

Behind her warmth and geniality is a sharp wit and a seemingly tireless work ethic. She’s devoting her career to getting medical care to the people who need it most. And it’s no exaggeration to say that her work is leading to thousands upon thousands of lives saved.

Guided by God

Racheal began her work with Medical Teams 12 years ago. After graduating from university, she was looking for a job where she could serve people and live out her Christian faith. She was especially passionate about working with children. When Racheal took a position as a project assistant with Medical Teams in 2010, her role meant living far from home in Uganda and working in a refugee settlement.

She describes the shock of arriving in a refugee settlement for the first time: “We moved all the way to the field and the roads were rough. And I kept wondering, What kind of environment is this? What kind of work am I going to do here? On our way, we went through woods. It all felt like a movie that I was watching. And I was like, Is this real? There were children playing on the roadside. They do not have clothes. People are sleeping in houses, which if I stood up, I would be taller than them. And I asked myself, God, what is this? What am I going for? It touched my heart. I was so humbled.”

Racheal Kyalikoba and a young child smile together.
Racheal visits a family with a little girl named Joseline in Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement.

Arriving at the settlement, Racheal was struck by the joy of the staff working there. They were away from their families, living in a remote and difficult environment, and yet they were full of joy. In that moment, she felt God brought her to the place she was supposed to be.

Transforming services to save lives

Ten years later, Racheal found herself working as a Medical Teams program manager, launching two new programs in Uganda. Her role was to get medical services up and running across two refugee settlements for over 250,000 people.

When Racheal arrived, the services weren’t functioning well. Mothers were losing their lives in childbirth. Children were dying from illnesses that are preventable and treatable. “When we started there, we would lose over 10 to 15 children in a week,” she explains. The year before Medical Teams arrived they also lost 12 mothers due to childbirth complications.

Witnessing the suffering was incredibly painful for Racheal. Shortly before moving to this new area, she experienced the tragic loss of her own baby. She describes how difficult those first two weeks were in the settlement.

“Every time I would sit in the middle of the facility, I would hear screams of mothers shouting, losing their children. It would cut deep. I would break down. It was horrible.”

Racheal channeled her personal pain into action. “After the first two weeks, I said it cannot continue like this. We cannot have mothers running around from one place to another because they’re losing their children. So, I sat my team down and I told them we are going to have to change things in the shortest time possible.”

And that’s what Racheal did. She met with her team and created a list of objectives. They tracked the causes of death in children. They led community dialogues to find out why women weren’t coming to the clinic to give birth. They trained community health workers to get health messages to the far reaches of the settlement. They resolved to get the operating theater up and running to provide emergency C-sections.

A man and woman walk through a field with tents in the background where refugees live.
Racheal and a community health worker visit newly-arrived refugee families to share health messages and offer services.

Racheal’s work ethic, passion and faith were an example for her team. Under her leadership, the team dramatically improved health services within a matter of months. And more importantly, they significantly reduced the number of deaths in women and children.

Racheal beams when she describes the change. “By 2020, we wrote our first success story,” she says. “Everything had totally changed, from 10 deaths of children in one week to one or two in a month. And from 2019 with 12 maternal deaths, to two in 2020.”

More than a job

Just as Racheal’s staff loves her, Racheal loves her staff. She says that no matter how busy she is, if someone comes to her needing to talk, she will set aside her work and listen. She knows that pouring into them allows them to pour into others.

Racheal Kyalikoba stands next to two sitting men and looks at a book of records in a health facility.
Racheal works alongside her staff in Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement to improve the health of mothers and children.

Working on the front lines of the refugee crisis is challenging. Racheal explains how the people they care for are in a lot of pain – physically, mentally and emotionally. They cross the border with wounds from bullets. Some lost track of family members along the way. They left behind homes, possessions and communities.

For Racheal, that’s why sharing the love of Jesus is so important. “We are blessed to have staff that are really loving…when the staff are in the facilities, the way they act, just a simple smile is enough to heal somebody. And when [patients] see people showing compassion to [them], even before you give them the medication, most of them have told us, ‘Just the smile, just the care from the nurses, just the care from the doctors, was enough to heal my soul.’”

Caring for our neighbors, together

Racheal is not only grateful for her staff, she’s grateful for Medical Teams’ supporters — people like you. She sends this message:

“We are so thankful to our funders, to our donors for the work that you’re doing. Most of you are far from here, but yet you live in our hearts, yet we are on your mind every day. You’re thinking about us, you’re praying for us, and through that we can do what we do. Through that, we are able to extend love to lots of people around us. Thank you so much for what you do. May God bless you.”

We are facing the largest refugee crisis the world has known, and each of us has the power to do something about it. When we join hands with dedicated people like Racheal Kyalikoba, we can save lives and love like Jesus.

Join Racheal and deliver life-saving care to people in crisis.

Lindsay Sullivan
Brand and Content Strategist