Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

November 25, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Kigabo Mbazumutima


  • Kigabo Mbazumutima is a doctor from the West African Republic of Benin who grew up in primitive conditions but was inspired by his two sisters to obtain a medical degree. He is now working, along with help from Arizona State University, to bring medical care to his people. Mbazumutima will talk about his efforts and his life.
Guests:
  • Dr. Kigabo Mbazumutima
Category: Medical/Health

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Kigabo Mbazumutima has a unique story to tell. He grew up in primitive conditions in the east Congo, a life that included no running water, no electricity, no cars, and not even a road for cars. Medical care was nonexistent but Kigabo had a dream of becoming a doctor, and after realizing that dream, he had another goal: To take medical care back to his homeland. He's doing that with help from Arizona State University. I recently spoke with Kigabo about his life and his efforts to help others. Kigabo, thank you for joining us here on "Horizon."

Kigabo Mbazumutima: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about you. Your upbringing, if you would.

Kigabo Mbazumutima: I am born in the east of Congo. And a place called the high plateau. It's a village where there is no road, there is no electricity, there is no running water. People live there, a wild life. And people don't have access to healthcare. And when we was very young, I -- we used to see people having babies in homes. My mom had 11 children, all 10 were born in home. The last one had to go -- my mother had to go to the hospital, but they had to transport her for four or five days before she get to the hospital. And it was terrible. But it was a normal life. It was a normal life to see people getting sick, getting no treatment. All of what people were able do was to have medications prepared by wise men or wise women and give to people. That's how people were able to give and were to recover or to die. And women were dying in my own eyes. Until my younger -- my older sister, who was at that time, the only girl who had a high school diploma, died when she was giving birth and she was my hero. She was the person who used to tell me, Kigabo, as you are smart in school. What if you become the first doctor in this area, as I became the first girl to have a high school diploma? I didn't make my decision, even though I knew that was something, you know, necessary to do, but since she died, I said I have to become a doctor. I will do whatever it take to become a doctor.

Ted Simons: Did you have a mentor? Did you have people helping you and assisting you as you pursued this -- as you pursued this dream? It's one thing to say I want to be a doctor. You achieved it. How did you get it done?

Kigabo Mbazumutima: When I said it, people believed it was grief for the death of my sister. We're poor, just leave him alone. He's going through grief. But I was serious about that, and since my parents noticed that I was serious about that, they decided to help me. It was a very -- it was very difficult. Very challenging to have money to pay tuition, to live with -- without any assistance from the government.

Ted Simons: Became a doctor, and I know worked along those lines and I know your family was responsible for you getting to America and Arizona, where you have decided to go back and help some of the folks that you were raised W. talk to us about the African American health new horizons.

Kigabo Mbazumutima: I saw it was possible to do it. But after my graduation, it was like a dream, because it was not like an official -- it was not incorporated. It was not tax-exempt. It was not -- you know, it was just a dream that became, again, active, and the whole idea was doing so many things on my own, to build a clinic with my sister and to travel and talk to some organization about my dream. Funding very well. But still it was a dream, I was not able to go far. Until I met the TVSG.

Ted Simons: Talk to us about that. It's an Arizona program that helps organizations like yours.

Kigabo Mbazumutima: And TVSG took my story, everything I was telling, my dream and everything, and they found a way, a professional way, to make my dream become a nonprofit, to become an organization, an official organization.

Ted Simons: Assisting legal matters and these sorts of things.

Kigabo Mbazumutima: They assisted in legal matters and, you know, we were discussing like we were all part of one team. I didn't feel like a client. And I didn't feel -- see them ace service provider, who were just discussing everything, and services they were able to provide, like the incorporation, the bylaws and the tax exempt, with the I.R.S. application, they did everything. I was coming, answering questions and they were finding a way to put it in a professional way to become a legal foundation for my organization.

Ted Simons: So with that in mind, last question here -- how are things going in the organization? Are you making a difference in Africa?

Kigabo Mbazumutima: Actually, I am making a great difference. Different level. First of all, on the level of hope, we went and traveled to Africa, I saw how healthcare leaders reacted -- received us. Hospitals we visited, we met with doctors, was just amazing. It was just amazing. People saw that. Now we are there, not to look for money, but to look for a solution for every problem of access to healthcare. And now since we became an official organization, many people even here in the U.S. are responding very positively. From looking to give us financial support. American immediate association said they want to give us a container of medical equipment to take to Africa. And so many doctors in the meeting we do, conferences, when I speak with them about Africa health and new horizon and my relationship with Arizona State University and TVSG, this make a very big difference. They get interested, they make a commitment to help. And this is making a great difference.

Ted Simons: Ok. Kigabo, it's an inspiring story. Thank you so much for joining us on "Horizon."

Kigabo Mbazumutima: Thank you so much. It was an honor to be here.

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