UPDATE: 10th May 2020
2020: Jackson works as lab technician in refugee camp
‘Jackson has been working hard at a clinic in the Palorinya Refugee Settlement in Moyo on the South Sudanese / Ugandan border. He’s been using his training to help his own people who, like him, are still taking refuge in northern Uganda.
Jackson tells me that they see up to 200 patients a day. He tests for malaria, Hepatitis B, syphilis, pregnancy, blood sugar and anaemia. He also carries out stool and urine analysis and screening for many other tests.
Jackson explains what he loves most about being a lab technician:
“I like microscopic diagnosis, which I can confidently and tirelessly do due to the fact that I don’t need a lot of body movement. Instead, I use my brain, which suits my situation. Working in the laboratory is where God has made a way for me to help my community.”
‘Through God, all things are possible’
Jackson Mataya – lab technician and refugee
To this day, Jackson continues to use his wheelchair in everyday life, which MAF helped to fix eight years ago: “I’m very thankful to MAF for returning my refurbished three-wheeler. I need it very much to move around and to get to and from work. Thank you for standing with me constantly. Through God, all things are possible.”
Doctor dream on hold for now
Jackson still dreams of becoming a doctor and completing his Bachelors and Masters degrees at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, but there’s some uncertainty around his South Sudanese education being accepted by Makerere University. Coronavirus has also exacerbated the situation.
Jackson’s plans are on hold for now, but that won’t stop him.
Please pray that he will be able to further his education somehow. For now, we are grateful that Jackson is bringing practical help to his fellow refugees at the Palorinya Settlement in northern Uganda.
2012: Jackson first meets Jill at orphanage
I first met teenage orphan, Jackson Mataya, during a visit to Bartholomew’s Orphanage in Kajo Keji, South Sudanin 2012. While he was crawling in the dirt, I noticed his rusting wheelchair nearby, which he could no longer use. He crawled three miles to school and back again every day.
During his childhood, Jackson contracted polio – a disease which can easily be avoided with one simple injection. Despite his chronically twisted spine, Jackson radiated a positive attitude with one of the broadest smiles I have ever encountered.
I called MAF Uganda. They were happy to fly Jackson's damaged wheelchair to Kampala for repair, but who would fix it?
Fortunately, Katelemwa Cheshire Home - a charity which supports people with disabilities - could. One of their volunteers, Liz Oliver, collected Jackson’s three-wheeled chair from the airport and they made it roadworthy.
‘The elation on his face will remain with me forever’
A few weeks later, MAF flew the repaired wheelchair back to South Sudan, covering the freight cost as a goodwill gesture. Pastor David from Bartholomew’s Orphanage was waiting for us on arrival to transport the wheelchair back to Jackson.
At first, Jackson was nowhere to be found! Due to MAF Uganda’s schedule, we only had half an hour to handover the newly restored wheelchair. Finally, we found him at a school near the airstrip where he took delivery of his precious new wheels.
The elation on that young man’s face, who’d been given back his mobility, will remain with me forever.
2017: Jackson and Jill reunite in northern Uganda
As happy as that ‘ending’ was, Jackson’s fate weighed heavily on my mind. I didn’t hear from Jackson for four years, but I was told that Kajo Keji in South Sudan - where Jackson lived - had been evacuated in January 2017, following devastating militia attacks.
I also wondered what the future held for a severely disabled person in a war-torn country wracked with poverty.
In September, another prayer was answered. I was finally able to make contact with some South Sudanese pastors from Kajo Keji. Ahead of my flight to a refugee settlement in Uganda, they shared the wonderful news that Jackson’s school had been relocated to Arua in northern Uganda where he had been safely living.
With great joy, the two of us were reunited on Friday 22nd September 2017. Looking dapper in a shirt and very smart shoes, Jackson told me was studying medicine and had dreams of becoming a doctor.
I am so relieved to report that Jackson is safe, excelling at his studies in Arua.
Lucky to be alive
Jackson’s story could have been so very different. A year before our reunion – on 21st September 2016 at 11am - 12 armed militia entered his school in Kajo Keji and began shooting indiscriminately. Jackson – only a few metres away from his attackers - describes that horrific moment:
“We had nowhere to run, so we had to lay on the floor. One boy was shot right next to me.”
Two of Jackson’s fellow students were killed during the 15-minute ordeal. They had been sitting exams at the time. Everything was stolen by the militia, including Jackson’s school bag – a gift from MAF in 2013.
Thankfully, Jackson was able to grab his wheelchair and get home. For his own safety, Jackson was transported 90 miles from Kajo Keji in South Sudan to Arua in northern Uganda. Jackson recalls the journey:
“My wheelchair was toed by a boda boda (motorbiketaxi) with me on top of all my belongings!”
After arriving in Arua, Jackson was able to complete his exams that he and his classmates were sitting during the attack.
His attitude - even after all he’s been through – is stunning. Losing both parents to war and seeing his fellow students killed - let alone managing the crippling effects of polio - is enough to break anyone, but Jackson refuses to let trauma hold him back. This young man remains utterly determined to become a doctor and serve his people.
Jackson flies for the first time with MAF
One of Jackson’s dreams was to fly in a plane.
On the 15th December, we made that dream come true when Jackson came to stay with me and my family in Kampala for the weekend. MAF flew Jackson in the LDR from Arua to Kajansi for his first ever flight! This was an epic day.
Film shot in 2018:
2019:Jackson qualifies as a lab technician in Uganda
After Jackson graduated as a lab technician from Arua Medical School and completed his internship at the Arua Hospital in northern Uganda, I said goodbye to Jackson on 19th September 2019.
Jackson returns to the Palorinya Refugee Settlement in Moyo on the South Sudanese / Ugandan border to restart his life and help his people.’