Debora Lolonga is trying to help African parents recognise and deal with child cancer.
Black Diamonds online spoke to her.
DL: I was born in Lubumbashi, in Democratic Republic of Congo but I went to France when I was two years old. I spent my childhood in Grenoble, a town in the South-east of France. At that time there were not a lot of black people over there, I remember that I often was the only black pupil in my class so sometimes I had to endure insults from the other children.
BD: That must have been quite traumatic for a young child
DL: I was in public schools from primary to secondary school. Fortunately I had my two brothers and my two sisters. We were very close, they were my team. Together we were strong and we found a way to carve out our own space in this context.
BD: How long did you have to endure this?
DL: Growing up, things changed. Black people started to appear on TV, so that helped us because we had models to inspire us. I managed to persevere through my academic ability, through my sports skills (I played basketball) but mostly because I became a young Christian, which changed my way of seeing things.
BD: Then you progressed to university …
DL: During my university years, I went to Paris to study biology and after that, I integrated a specialized sector in Ethics, Science and society at the University of South Paris XI. I got my Phd in medical ethics at this university. I was attracted to the issues of biomedical ethics since I was in secondary school. University studies are the only way to get a job in this field. Beyond that, the university helps develop intellectual reflection and opens the way to a critical look at the world. I love that and I think it’s very important.
BD: What work are you doing right now?
DL: I created my consulting, training and project management company in the field of medical ethics. It is mainly for medical issues in Africa and for African professional healthcare. My aim is to raise awareness on issues related to patient rights in Africa (the right to quality health care, the right to information on their health, respect for the dignity of the patient, …) but also on the special difficulties faced by African caregivers when doing their jobs every day.
BD: Sounds like a passion?
DL: Doing this is almost a calling for me. It is so important to improve the health sector in Africa, either for patients or for health professionals, that I consider it a responsibility to try and do something. Between others projects, I lead the AIDAF project (French acronym) that I designed to improve the quality of the information given to families whose child is being treated for cancer in Africa. Within this project, with my different partners we created a practical guide to help African paediatricians and oncologists on how to announce the presence of the disease to parents. I’m really proud to be the author of this first “African guide to disclosing the diagnosis of paediatric cancer. I have also published several articles in French magazines on the subject of medical ethics in Africa.
BD: You are making a film …
DL: For the second part of the AIDAF project we want to produce a multilingual educational film on childhood cancer and its treatments in Africa. It will be a film adapted to the language and educational level of parents whose children are treated for it. We already have a big part of the estimated budget but we are looking for partners to support this action and finish the film. It may be an opportunity for you or your institution to show your interest on this kind of issues of international solidarity. If you are interested don’t hesitate to contact me.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to support this important work.