Help JJ become a surgeon in Uganda!

Meet Dr. Opio Jerry James from Lira, Uganda. Jerry James became a dear friend of mine when we worked together on the LDR, gyne, OR and HIV wards in a small referral hospital in Kabale, Uganda. He came from humble beginnings to become a well respected, skilled doctor and now has two years of training left to fulfil his dream of becoming a surgeon. JJ does not have the funds to continue this training. It is my goal to help him out so that  Ugandans can benefit from his incredible skills and dedicated work. JJ is currently borrowing money informally to try and make ends meet, but is not currently able to meet his or his family's basic needs. He supports his single mother, and his little brother is presently unable to attend school and it is also my wish to help rectify this. Even a tiny donation is deeply appreciated. By helping this wonderful person out, you will help save lives where it's needed most.  

Opio JJ's monthly expenses (CAD):
Tuition:  $130
Rent: $80
Food: $165
Support for his mother (meds, food): $60
11-y.o brother's school fees: $65
Other (toiletries, transport): $50
= $13,200 over 2 years

About Opio  Jerry James:
JJ is one of six siblings, born in northern Uganda in 1985. He and his fraternal twin brother were born second after their first sister, Lucky. She got her name as a toddler after surviving a village raid, left on her own when her single mother, having only  two arms, could only to  carry the baby twins but not her toddler into the bush as she fled. In hiding, their mother grieved the likely loss of her daughter. On eventual return to the village days later, she could barely believe what she saw. With a wild stroke of luck, the tiny girl survived.

Opio and his brother's births brought great joy to their family and the community. In his tribe, twins are acribed special status and require particular cultural rituals. Twins are seen as having special spirits and are treated as such; it was thought that if you injured a twin, terrible luck would befall you. 

JJ's father, a professor, died in a landmine explosion when the boys were quite young. This was at the beginning of a very brutal civil war that would last for more than two decades in northern Uganda between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA ) led by Joseph Kony, and the Ugandan government. JJ grew up witnessing horrific massacres through the LRA's military extremism. Armies of children were forcibly enlisted in northern Uganda. Children were abducted from schools and Internally displaced persons camps, with boys used as child soldiers and girls as slaves and wives of the commanders.  JJ and his family witnessed brutal forms of punishment, torture and death, losing friends and family members in this horrific manner. 

The war intensified in 2003 when JJ was sitting his national exams. At one point he and his classmates were marched for hours by their teachers into the bush to find a safe place to write their exams on the forest floor.  His mother relocated the family to a Kampala suburb where they scraped by on about a dollar a day.

During this time his mother worked as a cook in a local restaurant and took care of her 5 children living together in two small rooms. Education was always a priority, and JJ performed excellently, winning  a scholarship to Kampala international university to study medicine and surgery. Despite a setback where JJ's scholarship was snatched by another young man with government connections, JJ still found a way to attend medical school, albeit with little access to food and the inability to pay for travel to see his family for four years.

When I met JJ, he was just finishing up his internship (residency) with funding to cover tuition and lodging, but not food. The interns were meant to receive a monthly wage, but this rarely arrived and never in full. At the time, pursuing my midwifery education, I lived closely in Kabale (near the Rwandan and DRC borders) with my friends the young Ugandan doctors, full of energy and dedication despite living on tea and sugar in the morning, and one meal, mostly a giant plate of grains, in the evening. I was inspired by and learned so much from Jerry as a  colleague, who withought relying on electricity and internet at his fingertips, had become a walking medical encyclopedia with excellent diagnostic skills.  He shared his knowledge with me and I became a better midwife because of it, able to tackle life-threatening obstetrical emergencies.

JJ obtained 5 years of medical training with an eye to becoming a good doctor, helping those who suffer most, and kicking poverty out of his family. He completed his undergrad training in 2014 and his internship at Kabale Regional Referral Hospital in 2015. He is currently working as a teaching assistant at Kampala International University Teaching Hospital and is one year into postgraduate surgical studies. His monthly stipend is meagre, and a generous family friend, who previously lent JJ funding for his studies, has unfortunately passed away.

JJ is a humble but brilliant doctor and I am so excited to help him obtain his goal. He's got a fighting spirit. After the gofundme deduction and cost of international transfer, JJ will receive 100% of the proceeds, divided monthly over his remaining two years of training.  $13,000 CAD would enable him to finish. 

Feel free to contact me with any questions. Please share!

Kate LeBlanc
Registered Midwife, Kamloops BC
Vice-President / Media Rep, Midwives Association of NB


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Kate LeBlanc 
Kamloops, BC
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