The Shepherd Boy Who Became a Doctor

By Lena Hartog

There’s something peculiar about hope. It lives inside all of us, pushes us through the hardest times in our lives, and it may be the single most important reason for us to keep on moving at all. Hope connects the present to the future, we take action because we think that our actions will contribute to the things we believe in. I would like to share with you a story that gave me hope.

Let me tell you about a man named Jafani Nabare. Jafani was born and raised in Northern Ghana. From an early age on he had an exceptional thirst for knowledge. He wanted to go to school but his school was too far away from where he lived. This is why, at the age of only 8 years old, he decided to move out of his mother’s house to live with his uncle.

Throughout his childhood, he spent all his time outside of class tending cattle and fishing during the night to pay his school fees. Despite these difficult circumstances, he was able to finish his schooling, going on to become a specialized doctor. As a doctor, he fought against the widespread corruption in the hospital system, in addition to his medical duties. In the hospital where he worked in Ghana, it was common for the medical staff to only come in action for a patient when they knew him or her directly. According to Jafani, “Anybody who doesn’t have a relative in the hospital should get basic health care. And it will take just you and I to change that over time”. He also supported students unable to pay their school fees. Over the past few years, he has been getting his specialization in urology in Germany while going back to Ghana for a few months every year to work there for free.

His one last dream is to start his own hospital in Northern Ghana, providing a model for other hospitals in the country. You may not recognize this kind of hope, may never have had the feeling you could, nor should change your direct environment. Living life in a series of safe, wealthy bubbles where real “problems” are barely present can make us forget that sometimes the biggest change starts very small.

Over the past few months several young people have been busy organizing a festival, dedicated to Jafani and raising money for his hopes and dreams. The Jafani festival took place on 26th October. The festival was like plenty of the other festivals regularly occurring in Amsterdam, involving live music from bands and singer-songwriters, DJ sets, and workshops. Yet there was one crucial difference, as it was created with the sole purpose of making a difference and making a positive change in the world. The festival also included a speech by Jafani himself, a documentary about Ghana, an auction of various skills and products, and a selection of drinks and food from Ghana.

I hope that we, as UCU students, do not only learn to climb up our own ladders, hoping for a fulfilling career and a prosperous future, but that we also learn to keep our eyes open to the world outside our bubble. Because it’s full of stories of hope, like that of Jafani, and we are capable of making a difference, even in the littlest way, even by attending festivals like Jafani.

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