Lydia Natoolo, past President of the Honor Students at Saddleback College and currently a Biology student at UC Irvine, is a driven student aspiring to become a pediatrician with the intention to give back to the communities that saw her grow.
Lydia was born in Lusaze, Uganda, the youngest of 28 children living in poverty with no access to close drinking water, food, electricity or education. She grew up as a witness to the everyday struggles of survival that made her who she is today–a young, strongly-motivated individual with a clear focus in giving back and making a difference in her community.
Since her arrival in the U.S. in 1999, Lydia has volunteered with various organizations, such as Invisible Children, Resolve, and Mariners Church, and she has lobbied on Capitol Hill to raise awareness for her cause.
Today, Lydia is the head of Love a Community, a non-profit organization born from her vision to bring hope and help for rural Ugandan villages to achieve sustainability. The main focus of the organization is to support community hospitals in Uganda by providing funds for medical supplies, electricity, clean water and irrigation systems.
Uganda has a total population of 40 million people, out of which 8.4 million lack access to safe water. In addition, poverty is rampant with 63% of its total population living on less than $2 per day. In Uganda, water is not easily accessible and represents a severe problem. Furthermore, the country relies on wood for fuel, which accelerates deforestation, land degradation and ill health from indoor pollution. Access to new renewable sources of energy could improve not only the levels of productivity, but will allow for the construction of pumps to extract drinkable water from aquifers and the implementation of irrigation systems for agriculture. The result of these improvements will translate into an increase of the country’s life expectancy, which is today 58 years old (World Bank data).
According to a study conducted in 2014 by the Uganda Ministry of Health, the Makerere College of Health Sciences and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in the eastern region of Uganda, the country’s population has 16.7% with sickle cell, 56% with malaria and 70% with some sort of anemia.
The region of Kumi is home to 400,000 people. Atutur Hospital, located five miles outside Kumi, is the central focus of Love A Community. The hospital, built in 1969, is currently operating under extreme conditions with no clean water supply until very recently, rationed electricity supply and a shortage of bed spaces. Originally, the hospital was designed to accommodate 100 patients and today serves more than 450 daily. Its optimal performance requires 72 nurses and 10 doctors, but lack of resources forces them to operate with 39 nurses and only three doctors.
In the unplanned urban settlements around Kumi, residents pay up to three times more for safe tap water than residents living in planned urban communities. As a result, residents collect water from alternate contaminated sources. This causes frequent outbreaks of waterborne diseases, such as cholera and dysentery. To prevent these major issues, Love A Community is continuously raising funds. So far, the organization has provided Ututur Hospital with a water pump that delivers clean drinkable water. In addition, and to mitigate the negative impact of the three-to-four-days of no electricity supply per week, the organization has provided some solar panels. Now, with a continuous energy supply, Ututur personnel can be more precise conducting deliveries or in the administration of IVs and injections.
Since the intervention of Love A Community and the implementation of all these projects, Ututur Hospital has experienced a reduction of sepsis cases per month from 34 to 14, and, more importantly, a total mortality rate reduction from 13.78% to 7.5%.
Love A Community’s ultimate goal is to improve the living conditions of rural Uganda by implementing positive and sustainable changes in the community and replicating the model, village to village, until covering the entire territory. Fundraising efforts have a direct and quick impact on the communities they serve. This year, the organization needs to raise a total of $50,000 for the construction of a water system, solar panels, an irrigation and farming system, and a sickle cell clinic.
If you are passionate and motivated to give back and help these communities, please contact Lydia Natoolo at 949- 201-0311 or email her at Lydia@LoveACommunity.org.