Natoyallah Djimingaye, known as Wilfreed, is a 28-year-old physical therapist. Since October 2021, he has been working as a rehabilitation officer with Humanity & Inlcusion (HI) in Chad. His career path was made possible, in part, thanks to the support from HI, which enabled him to train in Benin and then use his skills after returning to Chad.
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Natoyallah Djimingaye. I am 28 years old and I am a physical therapist. I am one of the three Chadian students who benefited from a scholarship fully funded by HI, in the framework of two HI projects (inclusion and mine clearance support) for a complete training course in physical therapy at the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Abomey Calavi in Benin.
What is your profession?
The best profession in the world! I am a professional physical therapist and I have been working as a rehabilitation officer with HI in Chad since October, 2021.
Can you tell us about your journey with HI?
My adventure started 6 years ago. At the end of 2015, I was one of three students selected to study physical therapy in Cotonou. It was a really tough competition with a written test, an observation period and an interview! The ultimate goal was to come back to our home country to share our skills and develop the field of rehabilitation given the cruel lack of human resources. Initially, the training was supposed to last 3 years, but in the end it took us four and a half years. I graduated at the beginning of 2021.
Four months ago, I had the pleasure of being recruited as a rehabilitation officer in the HI Chad program. This is my very first job, but I am convinced that the adventure will continue. In 10 years, thanks to everything that HI has already put in place, the field of rehabilitation will be back on the map in Chad. Maybe then, we can do another interview so I can tell you more!
What did your training with HI’s inclusion project bring you?
It allowed me to have an extraordinary personal experience: my first time living abroad, far from the comfort of my family and my country. I had the chance to discover another culture, another way of seeing the world, and above all, the chance to study in one of the best physical therapy schools in Africa.
Why did you choose to pursue physical therapy? What do you like most about your job?
During my adolescence, two particular experiences had an impact on me. The first one had to do with my cousin, Irene. She would have turned 26 this year and would have perhaps become an occupational therapist or speech therapist if she had not passed away when she was 18, due to a lack of adequate care for her cerebral palsy. The second was when a child from my home village lost his life at the age of two. He was born with a congenital condition and his parents considered him a curse.
I chose the path of physical therapy to give other children a better chance to be accepted by their environment, to grow up better and to participate fully in their community. What I like most about this job is the contact with patients - who come to you for treatment, who trust you and can rely on you when they need to confide in you.
What is your best memory since joining HI?
I took part in a rehabilitation mission in Bol to train the mothers of children with cerebral palsy. We practiced simple gestures to improve their autonomy in daily situations such as dressing, washing, eating, and walking. After 3 days of exchanges and practice, the expressions on the mothers' faces gave me indescribable joy! In just 3 days, they saw a child over a year old start to crawl when he had never done so before. Seeing this convinced them of the importance of our actions and made them realize that their child is not suffering at all from witchcraft or a curse. That day I had achieved my dream!
What are your hopes for the future?
I really hope that rehabilitation will develop in Chad. We need more centers to improve the quality of care, quality schools and an association of physical therapists to regulate and defend the profession. To date, there are only around twenty physical therapists for more than 15 million inhabitants, a dozen or so orthoprosthetists, no speech therapists, no occupational therapists, and no physical rehabilitation doctors. There is no rehabilitation department in the Ministry of Health! There are only two non-state rehabilitation centers.
For the future, I would like to be as useful as possible in the implementation and design of projects at HI in Chad and to enroll in a doctorate program for physical therapy, specializing in the management of neurological conditions in children. Let's just say I want to live my passion to the fullest and encourage others to become rehabilitation professionals!