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Refugees given a strong voice in health care

Published:  01 September 2020

Townsville Hospital and Health Service community partner Sibbo Sengabo’s 20-year journey to Townsville was not an easy one; however, the father of three is determined to use his personal experience to help shape health services and give a voice to refugees accessing health care.

Sibbo, who also works supporting refugees and culturally diverse community members at a number of organisations including the Multicultural Support Group and Cootharinga, said his own experience as a refugee inspired him to help others.

“I left my country in 1994 after genocide broke out in Rwanda,” he said.

“There was civil war, the government had been overthrown and there were revenge killings and atrocities, so I fled to a refugee camp in Tanzania.”

It was here that Sibbo met his now wife, Belesila.

“After 13 years in Tanzania I was eventually resettled in the United States and Belesila was resettled in Australia; I spent seven years in the US where I became a citizen before migrating to Townsville in 2014 and marrying my wife.”

Sibbo speaks five languages and is a qualified interpreter in Swahili-English, Kinyarwanda-English and Kirundi-English and became a community partner to provide a different perspective in health care.

"I want the Townsville Hospital and Health Service to be inclusive and welcoming to all people and I think my experience and connection with other refugees in the community will help me give people a voice in their health care," he said.

“My wife and I have also had three children here at Townsville University Hospital, so I can draw on our personal experiences with the facility to help drive change and look at where improvements can be made.

“I’m looking forward to contributing to improving health care delivery and working with the health service into the future.”

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