William Mugeni

James Mugeni: “Some have baptised me ‘a crook’ for helping people”

Iowa, USA | Generosity should not be defined by how close a giver is to someone in need. Instead, it should benefit all who need it.

Having many definitions, generosity can mean “giving to others not simply anything in abundance but rather those things that are good for others”. 

Likewise, a generous person is one able and willing to give. But to give, or ask people (the public) to help you support needy people, has made James William Mugeni get “another name” – “a crook.”

Mugeni has recently spearheaded a separate fundraising campaign to help raise millions of shillings for the kidney transplant of Dr Anthony Buhangamaiso. 

Dr Anthony, 37, is a Uganda surgeon. He was diagnosed with End Stage Renal Disease and needed UGX150m for a kidney transplant and treatment in Kenya. 

Within a “short time” of public call, more than UGX100m was collected. Mugeni’s GoFundMe campaign target was US$10,000. As of September 21, $3,671 was already collected. 

On Wednesday, September 20, TND News had a lengthy interview with the Iowa-based Ugandan medical clinical officer and he shared some of the backlashes he has received lately for helping people and asking the public to do the same. 

He has also shared the impacts of being generous. Read the full texts below: 

What motivates you to help other people at a time when many seem to be looking at their immediate relatives? 

You seem to be speaking to an issue where I have my brother dead. I lost a brother to kidney failure and a picture was sent to me when he was on kidney dialysis. You should have seen the pain I had looking at my brother negotiating for his life. 

That question sounds like ‘Why are you working in the bank receiving peoples’ money when you have no money?’ It is the same for a health worker treating unhealthy people while having health demands. Simply put it is service beyond self.

Also read: Donate now as Akurut Patricia, 23, needs an urgent kidney transplant in New Delhi

You said you have been branded “a crook” for initiating fundraising drives to help people. Does it worry you? 

It doesn’t worry me at all because Martha Namugabo and Dr. Anthony the beneficiaries are out there to thank me and whoever has given us money. Yes, it is one of those painful things I wanted to give up. I almost caved in because the message came from one of the members of the steering committee but then Galogitho Stephen Renny, one of the recipients of my efforts, was there to tell people who I am. 

Anyway, people lack ethics in the public sector so sometimes you don’t blame those who don’t trust you.

One of the most brilliant men yet unknown, until you came, is the former Makerere University Guild President Stephen Renny Galogitho. You took the lead to ‘rebuild’ Galo and today he’s reciprocating it to others. Take us through this.

Sure, Galogitho Stephen Renny is an unfinished project. I am so glad that perhaps I took the easier one. I footed his tuition for 18 months and saw him graduate as a Certified Public Manager. He presented a project that helped him pass the exam highly. He is a certified public manager (you refer to his certification). He was supposed to be interned, something that I am still negotiating with the United States but America is too big.

Also read: The story of ex-Makerere GP, Galogitho continues: how ‘hackers’ frustrated his recent revelations 

Back in Uganda, the opportunities for interning him are almost not there. You almost cannot find a place for a person so condemned by his own country. When I saw Dr. Anthony’s flyer online by the Association of Surgeons I felt this was an opportunity. I summoned him (Galo) and told him ‘Let us go and do this fundraiser’.

Dr Anthony, Galo and Martha (Dr.’s wife) are in Nairobi for treatment. Courtesy photo.

Also read: Worldwide generosity, Galo’s visit pours hope in ailing Dr Anthony Buhangamaiso 

We both have training as a course module in CPM. The fundraiser is an opportunity for managing people, funds, relationships, etc. So, it is an internship for him and I am observing him as a mentor.

As you mentioned, you are a certified public speaker or manager and you are known for criticising what is not right, especially the government back home. Is there a day you feel like, “I’m in danger of what I say?”

The dangers are part of the experience. Talk of the two of us: Galogitho Stephen Renny was dismissed from Makerere University. I was dismissed from Mulago National Referral Hospital in 1994. I was dismissed from Mbarara University Teaching Hospital in 2002 where I was a clinical instructor. I am a record holder in dismissals but trust me I have not yet killed but it is risk-loaded. 

Your question profiles me but if you take your time you might find me humanitarian.

What must be done to support people like Galo and Dr Anthony in times of despair and no hope? 

You are in one of the groups that were formed to support Galogitho Stephen Renny. That fundraiser suffered because of Covid-19. People who came in to give suffered depression. Money is just not coming, we retain names. However, for me all the fundraisers for Galogitho Stephen Renny let Anthony rekindle the fire. 

Also read: Experts explain kidney disease as Dr Anthony Buhangamaiso battles with it

The two are resuscitating one another. Dr. Anthony needs more than UGX150 million. I think starting a kidney transplant Hospital in Uganda is cheaper.

As one of the lead fundraisers for Dr. Anthony’s kidney transplant, what has this taught you, apart from some referring to you as a “crook?”

The dark statement is strong but the people who give are a gem. There is someone who gave $1000 and I don’t know them. Someone gave $750, someone gave $500 then there was someone who gave just $1. It was such a wonderful experience. 

For me, I just tell them to feel the joy of giving. Receiving is very painful.

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