Jane is the Manager of the Bwindi Nursing School and Community Hospital in Uganda.
This community hospital, which started as a mobile clinic under a tree in 2003, provides healthcare to over 100,000 people from local communities in the Kanungu District of Uganda.
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, our thoughts have been with the healthcare workers and essential workers who are on the frontlines. While many of us have been able to stay safely at home, so many women have been risking their lives to care for others under extremely challenging conditions – Jane is one of these women, who has devoted her life to caring for others.
Over the past decade, with the support of Sanctuary Retreats and their guests’ donations, the Bwindi Community Hospital has expanded and has become an incredible asset to the surrounding communities.
The Bwindi Community Hospital was experiencing a shortage of qualified nurses, which was impacting the quality of patient care and limiting the number of patients that the hospital was able to treat. In response to this shortage, the Bwindi Nursing School was established to help train nurses from surrounding communities and expand the reach and positive impact that the hospital was having.
Jane helped lead the development of the Bwindi Nursing School and Community Hospital and is committed to empowering young girls, ensuring that they have the opportunities and tools they need to become future nurses.
Jane noticed that the vast majority of the candidates applying to the Bwindi Nursing School were men. Together, with the Minister of Education, they conducted research to find out why so few young girls were not applying to the nursing school program, and found that it was because they did not meet the entry requirements set by the Minister of Education.
Traditionally, very little focus is placed on the education of young girls in the surrounding communities. Young girls are expected to be caregivers and are responsible for staying home and looking after their families. Girls are often forced into marriage at a very young age and the money that pays the bride’s family from the groom’s family, a custom in many African cultures, is used to pay for the education of the bride’s brothers. While these traditions are slowly changing and young women and girls are being empowered to gain an education and seek economic independence, there are still many challenges that young girls face.
Jane did not want young women’s future careers to be impacted due to the fact that they did not have access to education. Together, with the Minister of Education, the Bwindi Nursing School adjusted its requirements to allow young women, who did not have the necessary education levels, to gain entry to the nursing school under the condition that they undergo an additional year of training.
In fighting for this change to the entry requirements, Jane has been instrumental in empowering these young women and allowing them the opportunity to gain an education that will not only change their lives but help to save the lives of the people they will be able to care for in their communities.
As part of their philanthropy project, Sanctuary Retreats has also created scholarships for students who are not able to afford the annual tuition fee, which ensures that no one is denied the opportunity to gain an education.
By encouraging young girls from local communities to join the Bwindi Nursing School, Jane is not only investing in the futures of these young girls, but she is also investing in the communities, as these girls will use their skills to make a difference in the lives of those around them.
The Bwindi Community Hospital and its trained nurses have had a massive impact on local communities, who before would have had to travel long distances to access essential healthcare. The dedicated staff also sends out outreach teams to surrounding villages, which ensures that all people have access to healthcare and health education, even if they are unable to come to the hospital for treatment. This critical access to healthcare has changed the lives of the people living in these villages, especially women and young children.
Jane is incredibly passionate about female empowerment and is committed to using her passion and knowledge to empower young girls and lead the way for them; allowing them to gain the skills they need to make a difference and give back to their communities, and to reach their dreams and full potential.
Photos by Alizè Jireh and Chris Joubert.