Suubi: A Dream of Hope

On Friday, October 26th, a group of young, dynamic dancers — the youngest being 9-years of age and the eldest just one year shy of legal adulthood — known as the Triplets Ghetto Kids visited Suubi. This is not just any group of talented performers nor was the visit random, however. The Triplets Ghetto Kids starred in French Montana and Sway Lee’s Unforgettable music video, which was filmed in a very lean neighborhood — a polite version of the word slum that I am experimenting with — in Kampala, Uganda.

Drawing from his African (Moroccan) roots, French Montana had a special inclination to give back to the communities he visited during his tour. Through a bit of persistence on Suubi’s part, the Suubi team was able to get in front of the man himself. After his visit, French asked the team what he could do, and humbly, Denis Muwanguzi — Mukisa’s third son, my immediate project contact, and overall amazing individual (like the rest of his family) — asked that French Montana use his platform to spread the word about Suubi. He did just that, and then some with a personal donation of $100K — his homie Diddy donated an equal quantity at a later date — and an on-going partnership of equals.

It is that very partnership spirit that brought the Triplets Ghetto Kids to Suubi for a tour of the facilities, a wicked performance, and a presentation of the history of Suubi. As excited as I was to meet my first group of celebrities, I was equally excited to hear the origin story of the organization that I will be partnering with and learning many lessons from over the next few months.

Suubi’s doors may have officially opened in 2014, but the dream of a maternal and child healthcare center operating in the heart of the lush rolling green fields of Budondo spawned nearly two decades ago at the turn of the millennium. Even before that, the seeds of giving and becoming an advocate for one’s community were being planted in the mind of one Mukisa Bernard from a very young age.

The Architects: Mukisa and Topista

An only-child under the care of his mother, Mukisa’s father experienced a bit of financial hardship that effectively put an end to his academic career in the middle of Primary 7. Overhearing the young gent’s sobbing over the impending end of his formal education, one of Mukisa’s teachers invited him and his father to a meeting. At this conference, Mukisa’s teacher praised the young-man as being a stellar student — a “good boy” — so much so, that the teacher offered to pay Mukisa’s school fees for the remainder of the year while lodging him in his own home.

Such generosity would follow Mukisa throughout his life. From receiving a generous teacher’s college package that included his own mattress—his first proper mattress, at that—and a new pair of shirts, trousers, t-shirts, and pajamas every year for four years, to receiving a state-sponsored scholarship to the Soviet Union to continue his tertiary education, blessings have certainly followed this gentleman throughout his life.

It was this generosity and all of its graciousness that triggered Mukisa to take action upon returning from the Bloc Countries and hearing tales of the many senseless deaths in his community. As he addressed the attentive crowd seated in the confines of Suubi’s new antenatal care ward, he shared a few deaths from his community that not only troubled him, but also encouraged him to take action and pay the love that supported him forward.

After all, how could a man with swollen feet die from not receiving something as simple, in the modern condition, as a blood transfusion?

After all, how could a young woman, despite visiting two local health workers, perish after ingesting a concoction composed of a nail dissolved in cola as some sort of abortion-inducing drug (in a twist of unfortunate irony, one the two local health workers was responsible for prescribing the lethal mixture to the woman in the first place)?

After all, how could a woman, 9-months pregnant and ready to bring a new life into the world in only a matter of days, die en route to the nearest hospital in Iganga some 30-minutes away?

Such untimely and preventable ends were emblematic of a sort of disease in the Budondo and surrounding communities. But this ailment, like others that plague communities near and far, could be cured insofar as a few standout citizens — in lieu of a government or major corporate entity — were willing to dedicate their resources to treating it. Mukisa and his wife, fellow visionary, and astute architect of the dream, Topista, would be such pioneers.

Today, after four years of diligent effort and support from the global community, including Mama Hope, Suubi is a thriving healthcare center with big visions for her future. The ANC unit is nearing operational readiness and will provide an additional 16-beds to sick mothers and children, the Suubi hospital — a facility that will house additional maternity beds, a surgical theatre, dental care, and more — is under construction and will be open soon, and the facility has achieved 60% sustainability, i.e. the capacity to cover the facility’s costs — salaries, administration, supplies, and medicines — through its own income generating efforts and activities.

All in just over four years of official existence.

Prior to that afternoon, I knew that Suubi — the Lusoga word for Hope — came to be out of the will of her founders and advocates — not just the Mama Hope ones, either. What was lost in my understanding prior to that afternoon, however, was what makes Suubi such a special institution. Yes, opening a health center in an under-resourced community upon hearing stories of countless preventable deaths is an admirable task in it of itself. This was not lost on me.

However, the ability of Suubi’s staff to treat her patients with love and genuine, almost familial, concern in a healthcare system where stories of callous medical staff and patient abuse are hauntingly common does not come out of thin air. Such an M.O. is only possible insofar as the originators of the dream themselves received such love and familial concern throughout their lives.

Mukisa’s life story makes clear this truth and simultaneously divulges the special ingredient in Suubi’s secret sauce of community-centered medical excellence.

‘Till next time

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Alexander O. Porte

Alexander O. Porte

Constant thinker. Occasional writer. Sassy talker. | Writer of politics, culture, and travel.