All dreams are valid

Emmanuel Ndayisaba 


Born in Rwanda, East Africa, Emmanuel and his family resettled in Adelaide under the humanitarian refugee program. He learnt English and joined the university of Adelaide to study medical science and Public Health. Currently at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney he chose to complete his clinical school in rural Wagga Wagga. 

One thing that all humans have in common is dreaming. When we dream, we permit our minds to imagine the future that we desire to belong to, the person we would love to become, and the world we would like to live in.  This characteristic can be found in all humans, from as far as Rwanda in East Africa, to refugee detention centres in Manus and Nauru and back home in the suburbs surrounding the Opera House. I am not any different, I have always had dreams. Mine started when my beautiful parents and 4 siblings welcomed me into this world. It was a cold Monday morning of December in 1985, in a small rural Hospital of Butare in Rwanda. I came in such a hurry that I could not wait for my mother to reach the hospital: I was born outside, in the garden of the hospital. Despite the threatening cold temperature, I was kept warm, I was cared for by qualified medical professionals and raised to go to school and experience what it is like to be loved and wanted, a feeling I wish to every child in the world. My parents dreamed for me, they wanted to love and nurture me, they wanted to raise me into a human being that loves and serves others. But above all, they wanted me to develop and follow my own dreams. 

Just when I was starting to form my own dreams, the Rwandan 1994’s genocide forced us to leave our home for safety. We lived from refugee camps to others, country to country. Each step brought us further from our dignity and dreams. I soon came to understand that this is what tends to happens to refugees: some people mistakenly think that our dreams and rights are less valid. This taught me what it feels like to know that one is not wanted, to have dreams that are not recognised nor given an equal opportunity, to doubt oneself, sometimes, to even wonder why one exists. These feelings hit me the most when, at 22 years, I finished high school from a small refugee school in the slums of Nairobi, but all I could see was a dead-end: I was not allowed to get a job, I could not afford further studies, my life was a big question mark. This situation unveiled a much uglier truth: that refugees are often not even allowed to dream. Knowing that all my dreams were basically almost impossible was equivalent to realising that I was better off not dreaming. This was the worst experience of my entire life, and it lasted for a long time. 

However, as one Rwandan proverb says, ”every hill leads to a valley”, my big question mark finally got an answer, when Australia opened its doors to my family in the year 2009. When we were told that we might be going to Australia, I started dreaming again. It was like finding an oasis in the midst of a desert. The process was long, but at least it allowed me to dream again. I could now think about myself as human again, I started to remember what it feels like to be welcomed, wanted and loved. The year 2011 saw us arriving in Australia, the country that was soon to become our home. I was in love with it, even before I saw it. I knew what was awaiting: I could have a plan, for the first time in my adult life. The first dream to be realised was that of being welcomed. We were made to feel at home by everyone we came across, be it the ladies at the nearby op-shop that gave us blankets, the fruit and veg shop that always made sure we got affordable supplies, to the case-workers who helped us apply for university. We were made to feel at home. 
My second phase of dreaming started when I was allowed to join university. This was not just my dream being fulfilled, but my parents and society’s dream. By joining University, I could now forge my way into becoming a citizen of the world, I could have a word and a voice, I could play a role and decide what and how to offer to my fellow humankind.  

The beauty of a university education is that it allows one to think, combining their experiences, creativity, talents and gifts. I chose to study Public Health and Medical science first. This allowed me to understand health issues in my new home, but it also brought back the perspective of that young refugee boy that I used to be, allowing me to understand the health issues that I had faced growing up us as a refugee. More importantly, this allowed me to ask myself about which direction I wanted in life. I realised that I wanted to combine my experiences and the understanding of Australia’s needs, and come up with a purpose. This is how my earlier suppressed dream to become a doctor was reincarnated. I realised that Australia needs medical doctors whose priority is provision of healthcare to those communities that need it the most, such as rural and remote, as well as aboriginal communities. I empathised with such communities because I could relate to them, using my own experiences of health inequity. 

All dreams are valid. Whether a refugee or not, every young person should be allowed to formulate their dreams, for that is the true beginning of a successful future. Education is one of the keys that open doors towards fulfilling one’s dream. In my case, this key seemed far away, making my dreams seem impossible. For many Australian young people, it is not the case. We are lucky to have a system where our dreams can be realised, all because we have an accessible education system. I would like to encourage every young person who have dreams, to grab this opportunity. It is in serving those who are in most need that I tend to find joy. Find what brings you joy, and find a university that provides it to you. 

This is Emmanuel's first article for MIPS. Keep an eye out for the Winter issue for his article on his elective to Kenya.

If you have an story to tell about your journey as a student or a healthcare practitioner, we would love to hear from you – send your 300-650 word article with the subject heading 'MIPS Matters member article' to

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