Written by Margy and Randy Roberts in reflection on their November 2017 visit to Uganda.
Ariong Gabriel was the first CROSO scholar we met with upon our arrival in Uganda in November of 2017, and for us, one of our most cherished moments.
We had traveled there with Molly MacCready, CROSO’s founder and executive director. Margy is a CROSO board member and has had a special relationship with Gabriel as they have been corresponding by email for some time. Gabriel had gotten to know us and our family and we had learned much about his life. We had anonymously sponsored his scholarship but Gabriel did not know that we were his sponsors.
Fittingly, we met Gabriel at the front gate of Mengo Hospital in Kampala where he had been an intern for the past six months. We did not realize what an emotional impact there would be for us in meeting Gabriel for the first time We knew his life story of being abandoned by his parents at age 5 and being forced to live in the streets. Now he was standing before us a confident, articulate young man who was about to graduate from college with a diploma in clinical medicine and community health. We were overwhelmed with emotions of admiration, happiness, gratitude and awe for what Gabriel had accomplished. We sometimes don’t realize the miracles that can happen in people’s lives.
Gabriel was eager to show Molly and us around the hospital campus, which we were grateful to see. He was able to take us into one of the hospital wards and meet a young doctor who has served as a supervisor and mentor for Gabriel. It was apparent that the doctor was very fond and proud of Gabriel as she interrupted her busy schedule to meet with us and give us a brief tour. Gabriel beamed with pride as he described his work at the hospital. With his medical training, he functions like a physician’s assistant, triaging patients, screening which ones need to see a doctor and which ones he may be able to help with medications or other treatments. Gabriel works long hours at the hospital. He told us he likes going to see his patients in the evening when it is quiet in the hospital. Gabriel said that he has the opportunity to read the patient’s charts and spend time determining their needs during this evening time. His dedication to his patients was quite evident.
After our hospital tour, we were able to walk a couple of blocks to see Gabriel’s college, Medicare Health Professionals College. We met with the school’s registrar, Jessica. She told us of Gabriel’s dedication to his studies and how respected he is by his instructors and fellow students. He is a soft spoken and quietly thoughtful person. But no one should underestimate this young man by his demeanor. Gabriel knows what needs to be done for Uganda’s health care system and is determined to change and improve it. Gabriel told us that one of his goals is to work outside the capital city in a rural health system where medical care has few resources.
Gabriel leads by example. He just jumps in and gets things done when he sees a need. He has done this throughout his childhood at Child Restoration Outreach (“CRO” – CROSO’s partner agency in Mbale), where he helped Nurse Esther with the younger children’s medical care.
We were so grateful for our time with Gabriel. We felt like we could see the future of Uganda through him. He truly wanted us to know him and his country. He asked us if we had seen the movie, the Queen of Katwe, a true story about a young woman named Phiona Mutesi who had grown up in the slums of Kampala and had become an international chess champion as a teenager. Randy told him that he had not seen it. The next day, at our scholar gathering, he approached us and privately handed us a DVD of the movie while no one was looking. A young man with almost nothing was thinking of us and giving us a gift. We think that truly captures Gabriel’s essence and character. We will never forget this visit with Gabriel.
As we were saying goodbye to Gabriel at the end, it was like saying goodbye to a son, our hearts full of many emotions, so happy and proud of him, and, simultaneously, hoping and praying for his success and safety in the years to come.