Hope. For a refugee forced to leave all that he or she knows, it’s hard to have any sense of hope and even harder to hold onto it. Living in makeshift settlements, unsanitary conditions and poverty for long periods of time, it’s no surprise that many refugees feel hopeless as they endure extreme physical and mental stress. However, if a network of welcoming, caring people nurture and support even a tiny glimmer of hope, it can be nothing short of life changing.

The people we serve, help heal and work to empower at Medical Teams are primarily refugees and people forcibly displaced within their countries. Astonishingly, there are now an estimated 100 million people around the world who fit this description, according to a recent report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). People who haven’t experienced the despair of being displaced may ask, what kind of future can refugees possibly have? 

The rest of their stories

As it turns out, the answer can be found in important and even life-saving jobs with Medical Teams. Earlier this year, we asked our colleagues in Uganda for stories of inspiring refugees now serving as Medical Teams staff. These are four hope-filled, resourceful and resilient people we want you to meet.

Niyonzima Abubaker, tricycle ambulance driver

Niyonzima Abubaker, 29, lives and works in Kyaka II refugee settlement in Uganda with his wife and two children. As a tricycle ambulance rider, he transports very sick patients from the community to the health outpost. Sometimes the patients are pregnant mothers about to deliver their babies or those injured in accidents. Other times they are children very sick with malaria or anemia, and blood transfusions are critically needed. He loves his work because it helps save lives.

man driving tricycle ambulance

In 2011, Niyonzima began a long journey on foot from North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo to Uganda. He was a 15-year-old orphan because rebels killed both of his parents and many of his relatives. He felt he had no choice but to leave, or he would be next. Niyonzima reached the Ugandan border at Bunagana and used a taxi to get to Kyaka II refugee settlement where a friend took him in.

“I no longer live in fear, and I have a family of my own that I love. I am at peace knowing that we are safe,” said Niyonzima. “Joining Medical Teams has made my life so much better. I can feed my family and educate my children, and at work there is great teamwork. I feel like I have another big family at Medical Teams.”

Emmanuel Unzi, clinician

Emmanuel Unzi is a clinician at Belle Health Centre III in Uganda. Originally from South Sudan, Emmanuel fled with his family to Uganda at age four. His parents returned to South Sudan during a peaceful period, but he fled again at 16 due to the violence.

headshot of Emmanuel

Emmanuel recalls encountering Medical Teams staff immediately and being impressed with the services provided to refugees. He applied for a job with Medical Teams, and over the years he earned his bachelor’s degree in public health, enabling him to take on roles of increasing responsibility.

“I see my journey as one of hope,” said Emmanuel. “I am very privileged to be serving and to have my profession. We participate in immunizations and screening to prevent and manage disease. Women are able to deliver in Medical Teams health centers, which has reduced the number of maternal deaths. I thank all those who support Medical Teams. It goes toward the right purpose and we are grateful.”

Nhial Mabior, clinical officer

Nhial Mabior traveled from war-torn Sudan to Uganda in 2013 with his wife and children. War started in December and spread quickly. There was a coup and government forces were attacked. Nhial’s family fled for their lives from the city to the bushes.

headshot of Mabior

“There were gunshots everywhere. I put my children in trucks and sent them to Juba. My wife and I walked there. The situation was so bad in Juba, I came with my family to Uganda, then UNHCR and OPM welcomed us at the border, and they transported us to refugee settlements.”

After coming to Uganda in 2014, Nhial joined a local NGO in the reception center. A year later, Medical Teams recruited him. He is now a clinical officer at Ayilo Health Centre 11 in Adjumani. He does consultations in the outpatient departments and does rounds in the ward, both maternity and inpatient.

“When treating a fellow refugee who has gone through the same challenges as me, I do my best to help them,” said Nhial, who is also learning the local language to be able to help nationals. “Some refugees who are traumatized and fear injections, but I counsel them that if they take medicine and advice, they will recover. I know what they have gone through. It is my pleasure to work with Medical Teams and serve refugees and nationals.”

Furaha Rehema, cleaner

Furaha Rehema, 30, a single mother of six children in Uganda, is a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rebels killed her first husband and her second husband left when she was pregnant. Furaha went into labor too early and suffered severe complications. An emergency C-section performed by Medical Teams saved her life and the life of her child, Salama.

headshot of Furaha

Two years ago, Medical Teams hired Furaha to work as a cleaner at Kasungu Reception Centre. Life changed dramatically for her because of this opportunity. She can now buy food and clothing for her children, and she can get medicine for free from the health center.

Recently, two-year-old Salama became very sick with malaria and severe anemia. Furaha took her to the Medical Teams health center for treatment. An ambulance transferred mother and child to Hoima Regional Hospital for further care.

They stayed three days at the hospital, where staff treated Salama for malaria and gave her a blood transfusion. During their time in the hospital, Medical Teams gave Furaha money to buy food. Salama was discharged and is now greatly improved.

Bring hope to the rest of their story

Despite living in a crowded camp or a temporary shelter and separated from loved ones, hope can prevail. Refugees who have spent significant time without the comfort and safety of a home – or their home country – often have a very clear picture of how to help others on a similar path. They truly understand the needs of their refugee neighbors.

Even with all of the trauma, stigma and setbacks that refugees experience, there is still hope thanks to people who care and are willing to walk alongside them. Niyonzima, Emmanuel, Nhial and Furaha are living testimonies of the power of hope.

Will you help bring hope to the rest of someone’s story?

photo of Karen Piatt



Karen Piatt
Communications Manager