Whenever one sees a blood carrier drone or one speaks of Zipline in Rwanda, at some point in that conversation the name Israel Bimpe will certainly come up. His work is changing people’s lives and helping to revamp health systems not only in Rwanda but also throughout the world. That makes him a perfect fit for this year’s international youth day with the theme: “youth engagement for global actions”.
Weighing his accomplishments today, one may think that his life was special or he grew up in some fancy environment that brought opportunities on a silver platter. But, he is just a young man who had interests like anyone out there and tried as best as he could to follow them from a tender age.
The genesis of his interest in healthcare and engaging with people
Born in Bukavu, DRC, Bimpe was raised in Huye (former Butare) where he also spent his educational journey going to Ecole le pigeonnier for his primary, Groupe Scolaire Officiel de Butare and Ecole Autonome de Butare for his secondary, and university of Rwanda for his tertiary education where he earned a bachelor’s degree with Honors in Pharmacy.
Growing up in what was considered as the city of intellectuals in Rwanda-Huye (former Butare)- as a child, he immediately began chasing the library and within no time, he was married to the books.
“From an early age, I became part of a children’s library in our neighborhood-the only one at the time-and I read pretty much every book that was there,” Bimpe told RWW communications. Nevertheless, he added, it didn’t stop me to lead an active lifestyle as we had an active neighborhood and kids were allowed to go to common playgrounds. I also liked to go to watch basketball matches every time. His love for basketball did not stop there; he ended up playing it in high school and becoming the team captain.
It’s also in this very high school that he knew he had interest in healthcare.
During my high school, I wanted to do something in healthcare, due to my love for biology and chemistry side of things, however, I wasn’t keen on becoming a doctor, he said. “Therefore, with some advices from people, I ended up doing pharmacy in the University.”
The global citizenship path
Bimpe grew up in a religious family and he reckoned that most of his childhood was either defined by religion or reading because “It was one of those family where studying is given more priority and emphasis more than other things.” But this was not the only thing that enticed him to learn more things; there was also the university of Rwanda which had a lot of activities and the children’s library which sparked his curiosity of the things happening around the world which also led him to be part of many initiatives and extracurricular activities.
“I engaged in a lot of extracurricular activities such as a club called Rugali in my O level which hosted a lot of events, writing for the school’s newspaper called Journal Servir or being part of a group that visited embassies during holidays to learn about what it means to be a diplomat,” he noted adding that it built in him the urge to do more than just being a student at a school.
That did not only stop at his high school, for he joined the Rwanda Pharmacy Students’ Association (RPSA) upon reaching the University of Rwanda but didn’t become involved a lot until his sophomore year.
“Upon reaching the university, I joined the RPSA, but became more involved in my sophomore year after talking to local as well as international members of the association who showed me the opportunities that were available”, “which also felt like there is a community out there and nothing stopped me from being a part of it.”
Bimpe was in charge of exchanges in the RPSA, a post that was in charge of linking up Rwandan pharmacy students with other pharmacy students, throughout the world through internship exchanges and other activities. This position allowed him to meet his mentor who was also in charge of exchanges but in the International Pharmaceutical Students Federation (IPSF) who showed him opportunities of being part of the federation and all of which pushed him to want to do more.
From there he climbed up the ladder and led different positions such as being the president of the RPSA, vice president of the IPSF and then president of the IPSF.
He did all that while remaining active in different initiatives such as the WEF Global shapers which allowed him to bring and be part of a lot of conferences in Rwanda and later to be part of Zipline where he currently works as a Global partnerships lead.
“During the WEF, I met the owners of Zipline and I was a pharmacist interested in innovation and they were looking for the most innovative young Rwandan to work with them and that’s how they extended an offer and I was put in charge of implementation here in Rwanda then other countries a few months later,” he recounted.
The journey is not a smooth ride
As appealing as his journey might look, it was not that comfortable as an old shoe, for some compromises had to be made.
“When I reached the university, I had to reduce my basketball involvement to playing as a hobby or when others would go to watch premier league matches on Saturdays because I would be writing reports or making researches about grants and financing for the association’s operation,” Bimpe highlighted and added that he loved what he was doing and decided to invest more time in it.
There were not only sacrifices on this journey but also some challenges such as the cost of travel that was a bit high and access to information of such opportunities for the youth to take part in global action, which could be improved according to the young pharmacist.
Something is being done
Although Bimpe thinks that such challenges are being tackled, more needs to be done on the latter.
“Rwandair’s opening of more routes eased the travelling costs burden, and about the youth getting informed on more opportunities around them, we should create more spotlight and create platforms of exchanging ideas and experiences on a regular basis not just during big conferences and events,” he underscored. This, he added, is because we have so many young people doing amazing things either in private sector, government, or international organizations to name a few.
Additionally, he said that the youth should use social media to connect and be informed about what’s happening around the world and be globally engaged.
“We should feel that the burden of youth in Nepal, Argentina or somewhere in Africa is ours too and think of a role to play in relieving that burden, sometimes even drawing lessons from our country because it is exemplary in a lot of things.”