Black History Month: Everyone meet Grace Ngumi

James Vaughn

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A familiar face on campus is doing something not so common back home.

Grace Ngumi is a face anyone who eats at Sub Connection will recognize. She is the last person we see as we shuffle through the line, adding condiments to our six inch ham on white. Always greeting people with a smile she jokes with each person that passes through. 

“I love it very much,” Ngumi said. “I get to meet everybody.”

 

Ngumi was born on Sept. 11, 1972, and grew up in Mombasa, Kenya, Africa. Her family was middle-class, and she was raised one of five children.

“It was fun there because I lived near the beach, and there were a lot of neighborhood kids, and we would all play outside together,” Ngumi said.

After she finished high school, she attended the Valley School for Business Management in Kenya where she received training to be a secretary. After that, she attended the Regional School for Tourism and Foreign Languages, also in Kenya, and got a degree in Hotel Management.

Ngumi moved to Evansville in 2008. She made the move to America because there are no Occupational Therapy programs in Africa. She applied to a number of schools and USI was the first to accept her.

“I worked in the children’s ward of a hospital back home and being there made me want to make a difference in people’s lives,” Ngumi said. “There was only one occupational therapist, and he traveled around to many hospitals and there was a time issue for kids who needed therapy.”

That’s not all the single mother is doing to make a difference. She’s also in the process of building a clinic in Africa. She will provide occupational therapy for children, whether their families are rich or poor.

“The foundation is all that is up so far,” Ngumi said. “I’m not financially ready yet.”

Ngumi’s daughter still resides in Kenya with Ngumi’s parents.

“We try to talk on the phone at least twice a week, but it’s hard,” Ngumi said. “I haven’t seen her since I’ve been here.”

She will graduate in two years with a dual degree in Health Administration and Occupational Therapy.

Afterward, she plans to move back to Africa and finish building the clinic.

“You know the way they used to say that Africans can’t do anything, well my main goal is to prove that we can,” Ngumi said. “No matter what color or gender you are, you can make a change.”

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