UC student delivers hope to hospital in her homeland of Uganda
If you’ve ever doubted the power of one person to make a difference in the world, you need to meet Lydia Natoolo.
She was a 33-year-old community college student, an immigrant from Uganda who struggled just to pay her bills, when she read an article about a hospital in her homeland that had no running water and limited electricity. It lacked basic supplies and overflowed with patients.
Despite her own challenges, Natoolo knew she had to help and traveled to the hospital to examine the conditions herself.
Hospital officials were skeptical. Natoolo was living more than 9,000 miles away and struggling to make ends meet as a nursing student in Southern California.
“We did not take her seriously,” said Atutur Hospital Administrator Fred Malinga. “We never imagined anything good would ever happen because we had other people and organizations before who just disappeared without any attempt to address a single challenge. We were already resigned to our fate of hopelessness.”
But Natoolo, who grew up poor in Uganda, eating one meal a day and walking five miles to get clean water and two hours to go to school, has delivered beyond expectations.
Today, the nonprofit she founded has brought clean running water to the rural hospital — dramatically reducing the mortality rate in the process.
Natoolo hasn’t stopped there.
Now a biology student at UC Irvine, she has continued to raise money for the hospital through her Love A Community organization. With $20,000 raised by her nonprofit, the hospital now has a steady supply of electricity from solar panels.
And she isn’t done yet. Natoolo now has set her sights on addressing the issue of chronic hunger, both among patients and the wider Atutur community.
Photo of Natoolo on Link home page: Natoolo (on left) visits in Atutur with a mother who has HIV/AIDS and her baby who does not have HIV. Credit: Sam Sandweiss