Fred Rwabukumba has come a long way over the past 24 years, from son of subsistence farmers to a medical doctor in training. He grew up in Rwinkwavu, Rwanda, a rural area two hours east of the capital city Kigali. Most of Rwinkwavu’s residents are subsistence farmers—you’re far more likely to pass a cow than a car on the road—and electricity and running water are luxuries many cannot afford. 

Rwabukumba attended Kadiridimba Primary School. When he was a student, it was a bare bones facility that didn’t have chairs for students; classes often took place under the shade of trees, students lining the dusty ground. Despite the scarcity of resources, Rwabukumba knew from a young age that he wanted to improve his community and his country. Over the years, he forged an interest in science and medicine and worked to excel in his academics. 

It paid off. Today, Rwabukumba is one year away from finishing his medical training at the National University of Rwanda.

It paid off. Today, Rwabukumba is one year away from finishing his medical training at the National University of Rwanda. 

This April, Rwabukumba returned home to Rwinkwavu as part of a community medicine rotation. The rotation, led by Partners In Health/Inshuti Mu Buzima physicians, is part of all Rwandan medical students’ studies at the University of Rwanda. One of the goals is to immerse students in the community so they can better understand the social determinants of health.

During his time in Rwinkwavu, Rwabukumba had the chance to return to Kadiridimba Primary School and speak to the students and to the teachers, some of whom had been there when he was a student more than a decade ago.

“I used to wake up at 6 a.m. and fetch water from the well while reciting whatever I had learned the day before,” he told a room full of students. “It was hard to study at home, as we didn’t have electricity.” After asking who of the students wanted to become a doctor, almost all of the children raised their hands very happily.

As the day moved on, Rwabukumba and colleagues distributed several boxes of books they had collected through Books for Africa. One of Rwabukumba’s fellow residents led a seminar on nutrition and the importance of eating well.
Before the day ended, the team distributed fresh fruit to the students and encouraged them to study diligently so that they, too, can achieve their dreams.