Each day, something happens that reminds me that, no matter how large it may seem, our world is an extremely small place. A few weeks back, I was in Pittsburgh visiting my grandmother at her nursing home. I was telling my grandmother about my recent trip to Uganda, when a large group of nursing students walked by my grandmother's room, stopping briefly to discuss something. Most of the students looked African American, but at the back of the group, one looked to be East African. I didn't want to be presumptuous, but a large name tag on his scrubs read, James Olowu. To me, that sounded like a Ugandan name, but not wanting to be intrusive, or flat out wrong, I let the group walk by without saying anything. About an hour later, we left my grandmother's room and headed for the elevators. When the elevator doors opened, the group of nursing students were staring right back at us. This time, I decided to be intrusive. I asked the nursing student where he was from, and to my relief, he answered, Uganda. I proceeded to greet him in the limited Luganda that the nursing students in Kamuli had taught me, and his eyes lit up with surprise. As quickly as I could, trying to stay ahead of the short elevator trip, I began telling him all about Imaging the World, and my two visits to Uganda. When the elevator made it to the ground floor, his instructor suggested he talk to me for a while, and rejoin his group later.
James explained to me that he is from a town called Tororo, in Eastern Uganda. He also explained that for a few years now, he had been trying to set up health programs in his home town to combat numerous issues that he felt were solvable. James was a graduate of Makerere University and had earned a scholarship to continue his studies in nursing at Laroche College in Pittsburgh. And now, almost 12000 kilometers from home, he and I were having a conversation about health centers in Eastern Uganda, and the possibility of putting ultrasound units in those centers. James explained to me that his brother works with the United Nations, and would surely be able to help us with the regulatory logistics if we ever decide to expand in and around Tororo.
Since leaving Pittsburgh, James and I have talked a few times. He mentioned that there is an ultrasound machine that was donated at a hospital in Tororo, that is either in a state of disrepair, or without anyone qualified to operate it. He also has reiterated interest in trying to bring ITW's program to Eastern Uganda.
I guess the message I want to get across here is: keep your eyes and ears open no matter where you are. The world is smaller every day, and opportunity is around every corner. James and I will be staying in touch - perhaps a partnership will come of this.