Home away from home. Dr Ian Clarke, the Makindye Division Mayor, first came to Uganda in 1987. He had planned to stay for two years and then return. But the two years became six years and later translated into turning Uganda a home.
I first came to Uganda in 1987 under the Church Missionary Society, to what was then known as the Luweero Triangle. I came with my wife and family and started work in Kiwoko, on the road to Ngoma, with the initial plan for a two-year project.
I started training a team of village health workers, while also treating patients myself. The first clinic was under a tree but then we used the local church vestibule and from there we built the first one-room clinic, which was then expanded to include a maternity Centre and a TB Ward.
Instead of the two-year stay, we extended to six years, during which time we started a hospital – Kiwoko Hospital.
The money for the hospital was raised through donations: we started a group called Friends of Kiwoko Hospital, consisting of doctors and other friends we knew, mainly from Northern Ireland, to whom I wrote regular letters about what was happening.
We also asked aid organisations to help and Oxfam was the first organisation to give us a donation in the form of a land cruiser. This was a great help since the only vehicle we had was a small Suzuki jeep.
One could say that during the first phase of my life in Uganda, I was working in the ‘aid sector’. We were using donations to carry out development work, and part of my responsibility was to ensure that the money we received was used properly.
I left Uganda in 1993, so that my children could pursue their education. I used this time to do a master’s degree, before coming back to Uganda in 1995.
Making Uganda Home
The first night we spent in Wakyato, Luweero was pitch-dark. But despite this, I felt I had come home and have felt the same way about Uganda ever since. Interestingly when my son, Sean, finished studying in the UK and came to work with me about three year ago, he also said the same.
Shortly after my arrival in Luweero, while on a pastoral visit to the district, the Bishop of Namirembe, Misairi Kauma, came to visit us and decided that since we were working in the heart of Buganda we should have a clan.
He ‘adopted’ me into the Koobe Clan and named me Busulwa, my wife was adopted in the Monkey clan and was given the name Nakito.
Volunteer turned entrepreneur
After doing my master’s in UK, I decided to come back to Uganda, this time with the intention of providing private medical services to the developing Ugandan middle class.
I worked for a short time at ‘The Surgery’, but then started International Medical Centre, since ‘The Surgery’ was more geared to the expatriate market.
By that time, the corporate sector in the country was growing, the presence of international aid agencies was on the rise, and such organisations were looking for improved medical services. Mission hospitals like Nsambya, Rubaga, and Mengo were available, but mainly for the poor, and there was no fully-fledged state of the art private hospital.
When I moved to Kampala, I was targeting the urban middle class by providing something appropriate to their needs, for which they had to pay out of their own pocket. While I was in Kiwoko, I was targeting the rural poor, but it was subsidised by my friends from the UK and Ireland.
Along the way in Kampala I also had to do things for the poor, which I have done through our foundation called International Medical Foundation. In Kampala I was starting something which could be called sustainable development, not relief.