For Francis Ddembe, becoming a monthly donor to Women’s College Hospital is a meaningful way to give back to the place that helped him regain his health after arriving in Canada as a refugee.
Searching for a safe and secure future for himself and his family, Francis left his home country of Uganda in 2018 to start a new life in Canada. After arriving as a refugee, Francis was connected with Sojourn House in Toronto—a community shelter and transitional housing program that assists newcomers with their integration into Canadian society.
Refugees arriving in Canada must deal with the stressors of their refugee status, the immediacy of finding housing and employment, cultural and language barriers to be overcome, and the journey of resettlement in new communities. As a result, healthcare can easily slip down the priority list—a reality Francis experienced first-hand during his transition. Knowing he had an underlying heart condition, but preoccupied with settling in Toronto, it was six months before he could turn his attention to his health.
After meeting with a resident physician at the shelter, Francis was connected to Women’s College Hospital’s Crossroads Clinic—Toronto’s first hospital-based refugee health clinic—to begin addressing his health concerns. “When I first arrived, I didn’t know what would lie ahead of me,” he says. “Not until I came to Women’s College Hospital. Before that, I was worried about finding care but the hospital has been so helpful.”
Through community partnerships with Sojourn House and other refugee support programs in the city, the Crossroads Clinic is helping to improve access to healthcare for newcomers to Canada by providing comprehensive care and support for those who need it most.
Dr. Praseedha Janakiram, Francis’ physician at the Crossroads Clinic, says that offering a dedicated clinic specific to the needs of refugees is an important part of helping them settle in Canada. “Our patients are arriving from countries and regions of conflict and persecution. Many have spent months or years without healthcare access,” she says. “Others may have experienced stigma during previous healthcare experiences in their home settings. Having a sensitive, dedicated clinic that serves the refugee community and is compassionate to their unique needs is essential to supporting our patients as they rebuild their lives.”
Francis says the care he receives is helping get his health back on track. “They’ve made it so easy for me to attend my appointments and keep on top of my heart condition,” he says. “My health is really improving since I’ve been coming to the hospital and the doctors have taken such good care of me.”
Grateful for the care he received at the Crossroads Clinic, Francis was inspired to give back by becoming a monthly donor to Women’s College Hospital Foundation.
“I feel like I need to give back to Women’s College Hospital for what they have done for me,” he says. “I am in much better shape and I am so grateful for the care I received. This is my way of saying ‘thank you.’”