The Time to Touch Lives is Now: An Interview with Kazungu Rauben
Updated: Oct 1, 2018
This is the first entry of an interview series about our ETH team members. Here Scott Blackwell, ETH’s Field Director of Operations, interviews Kazungu Rauben, the ETH-U research coordinator.
Below you can find a transcript of the interview:
Scott: Could you introduce yourself, please?
Kazungu: I’m Kazungu Rauben. I’m the ETH research coordinator. I’m a master’s student of applied nutrition at Makerere University.
S: Could you talk a little bit about your childhood, how you grew up, and how that affected you?
K: I grew up in a village background, a poor background from a rural district in southwestern Uganda. When I was growing up, I was unfortunate. We used to have one meal a day. Actually, having one meal a day would be a surprise. I’d spend the whole day at school without a meal and sometimes I’d go back home and not find a meal. It was so frustrating.
S: Wow, that sounds like it must have been really challenging for you. How would you say that you overcame that and got to the point where you are today?
K: Well, my life has been so positive. I was always so positive and ambitious about what I was doing. My life was all about ambition—I’m an ambitious guy. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a doctor. I was working towards that. Even if I was without a meal, it didn’t affect me because I knew what I wanted to be in the future. After school, I used to make sure I was doing better in the class. And, I was the best student in classes. My life has always been about ambition and I’ve always been a positive guy. I believe everything is possible if you can act.
S: That’s amazing. How did you become involved with ETH? Can you talk a bit about that?
K: I met the CEO, Jae Lee, four years back, when I just finished my bachelor’s degree. He needed a research assistant who could identify plants and was very good in the botany field. I met him, I helped him do a malaria study in Namatumba district. The study was a success. Later, he came back with the idea of helping people we had encountered. When we were outside in the field, we would find so many people who’re sick, so many cases. But they didn’t have treatments. They’d try to go to the hospital, but not get treatment. At the end of the day, they’d just get prescriptions to get treatments from private care units, which is really upsetting. So, Jae proposed that we could start our own health center. I shared the same dream. We decided to realize this dream once we got the resources.
S: It sounds like you’re very bought in to ETH. What makes ETH special?
K: What makes ETH special is that it identifies the need of the people, then intervenes and helps them.
S: What would you say is the biggest health problem here in Uganda?
K: The biggest problem is malaria. Rates are very high. Nevertheless, the intervention that the government is doing is not yet there. There’re high mortality challenges. It’s very alarming. Despite the mortality rate, the treatment for malaria is lacking. Sometime people with malaria go to the hospital, but don’t actually get treatment, so they have to go back home. Or maybe the only treatment they get is Panadol (a painkiller). The doctors don’t know anything about the disease, they don’t know anything about the patient, but they still just give Panadol. Malaria is really a problem that is affecting the communities of Uganda.
S: Do you have any ideas for how to solve the malaria problem and improve the situation?
K: We need to make sure that the drugs are in the store. You only frustrate the patient when they come to seek treatment but have to go back home without being treated. We can improve the problem by creating access to these drugs.
S: What kind of projects are you working on with ETH right now? What project do you find most exciting?
K: I’m excited about all the projects, but the project about intervening as a health center is the most outstanding project. Where we’re trying to build the health center, you can only find a health center 20km away. From the interviews we’ve had with the people, they are really ready to get treatment. I’m thinking if this project can go ahead and we establish the health center, we can create access to healthcare and really improve peoples’ lives. People here are surviving on one meal here per day, and when they go to the health units, they don’t get treatment. And, this is after spending many miles traveling. With ETH, I’m thinking that if we can have the ETH health unit in place, that project would solve most of the community’s problems. It’d save peoples’ lives, they could work, save some money, and buy some other basic needs, which I think could improve their standards of living.
S: Absolutely. Where do you see ETH 10 years from now? Do you have a vision for the organizations future?
K: I’m so ambitious and I’m looking at ETH as a mega-organization. With the beginning that we have, and the hard work and the teamwork that we have, I look forward to seeing ETH being a mega-organization, winning mega-grants, helping the people, having projects running in the communities, and improving the living standards of the local people.
S: That sounds really great. I’d also like to know, when you’re not working on ETH projects, what do you like to do in your spare time?
K: I like floating on water, swimming. [He laughs]
S: Thank you so much for talking with us. Do you have any other thoughts you want to share our American audience?
K: The only thing I can say is that healthcare is a problem in Uganda. And if it’s not touched I see many people quitting this life. I feel that someone who has a hand can actually touch these lives. These lives can be saved. I don’t see why we should wait for tomorrow. If we need to do something to support these lives, let’s do it now.
If you want to support Kazungu’s dream of making ETH a mega-organization and touching peoples’ lives today, you can help by donating to our PayPal page here. To learn more about our mission of bringing healthcare to the most vulnerable, visit our website ethealth.org or email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The interview was transcribed and lightly edited by Ben Perlmutter.