Looking for a lucky break
Despite his fortuitous sounding given name Goodluck Noah, at 23, has faced more than his share of challenges in life. But true to form he has weathered them all and attacks a sometimes seemingly bleak looking future with boundless optimism, energy and a smile on his face.
Having almost died even before his mother, alone and abandoned far from home at the age of 16, brought him into the world in a Kenyan forest, he has survived two more close scrapes with death through illness. Now the boy accidentally christened “Good luck” - by two European doctors on safari after they delivered him safely – is on a mission to repay what he sees as his good fortune by becoming a doctor and saving the lives of others.
The newborn who struggled so epically for life from such an uncertain beginning blossomed into a straight-A student with a passion and an outstanding gift for medicine and for making things, and people, better. Latterly as a young adult he was sponsored on a doctoral degree course, colours flying, when derailed by a cruel twist of fate. He now, like so many in Africa, finds himself in limbo, starved of opportunity to fulfil not only his true potential but what he is determined will be his destiny.
Goodluck’s life story reads like a Wilbur Smith bestseller, an intrepid adventure set against the backdrop of Africa.
His mum, Mary Kimbombo, became pregnant with Goodluck in 1994 when she was just 16. The father disowned the unborn child and left Mary, who contemplated suicide. Her family intervened but she fled from her Chaga tribal home in Rombo, northern Tanzania, across the border to Kenya.
Lost and alone when labour pains started, in September ’94, she went into a forest near Naivasha, where by sheer chance she was seen by a European couple, both doctors, on safari. Having saved both Mary’s life and that of the child, they made sure they would be cared for and bid her “good luck”, which became the infant’s name.
Mary took Goodluck to a Maasai boma near Namanga on the Kenya-Tanzania border, where she recuperated and he was able to strengthen his fragile grasp on life.
Eventually Mary began a new relationship, later marrying, and when Goodluck was aged four, the family unit moved to Arusha. His step-dad though began beating his mother and the marriage did not last. Goodluck was sent to live with his maternal grandparents on a coffee farm back at Rombo where they worked, picking coffee and gardening.
His aunt Josephine lived there too, and when her daughters, Anasia, Haikia and Grace, went to school, Goodluck simply went along with them even though he was only five and the usual school starting age is seven. He loved learning, devouring books and knowledge and, fired by a fascination with stories of the doctors who had helped give him life, developed his passion for medicine.
By 2010, in form Four, he was among only three of 107 ‘O’ Level students at his school to qualify to study for ‘A’ Levels – where Goodluck emerged with A-grades in chemistry and physics, and A+ in biology.
His struggles were not purely academic. In infancy he had nearly died from chicken pox, mistreated with traditional medicine, before finally being taken to hospital. And later, aged seven, he and other family members were critically ill with cholera but pulled through after a month in hospital. Even now, when interviewed for this story in February, Goodluck was recovering from his second bout of malaria, and making light of it.
After high school, financially excluded from pursuing his dream to become a doctor, Goodluck went to work at a quarry doing heavy physical labour. At this time he made friends with a wealthy Thai national, who was impressed by his story and talent and sponsored him to study medicine at Makarere University in Kampala, Uganda. Goodluck was overjoyed.
Half-way through the three year course, disaster struck, when his benefactor died. Goodluck was told that, unbeknown to him the Thai man was involved in poaching and had been gored by a rhino. Goodluck could not continue his medical degree and worked for two months in Kampala to get the bus money to return home.
Now, ironically, by studying abroad in Uganda, he says he is disqualified from accessing a government loan to study at the American-run Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre near Arusha. He has to re-start a new three-year course, and self-fund the annual US$1,344 (A$1,713), which is impossible for him alone.
Undeterred, he volunteers at Orkola Maasai Clinic in Ngaramtoni near Arusha, where he so impressed medical staff with his knowledge, passion and enthusiasm that he earned their respect and trust and they gratefully presented him with two magnificent practitioner-level volumes on surgery.
Meanwhile, Goodluck, who is a founding member of Lengo, a talented footballer, first-team player and dedicated senior coach, raises money doing whatever work is available, currently labouring on building sites and car washing. At the same time he informally offers medical advice and support to friends requesting it, via a Facebook page, especially in demand among young people with Sexually Transmitted Diseases, too embarrassed to see a doctor.
“I am sure I have saved lives,” says Goodluck. “AIDS is still a very big problem.”
He is drawn to Arusha, he says, because of Lengo. “I love being part of this community. Even if you are not talented in football you can still be part of it.
“If I was able to become a doctor I would stay and give back to this community, not go overseas to earn more money. If Lengo were able to open a clinic, and I could be the doctor there, helping people in this community, that would be my dream.”
All he needs is a bit more luck.
Written by Dominic Biggs
**We are pleased to say that Goodluck has recently been sponsored for his first year of Medical College and will start in August 2018. We are currently seeking sponsorship for his second and third years. If you are interested in sponsoring Goodluck please get in touch with us.