Country’s first official Covid-19 patient is successful entrepreneur

14Jul 2020
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Country’s first official Covid-19 patient is successful entrepreneur

She’s a dreamer, a doer, and a thinker full of life, who sees opportunities everywhere. That is Isabella Mwampamba, a brave woman who walked through the valley of the shadow of death. She is the country’s first officially confirmed Coronavirus patient.

The country’s first official Covid-19 patient, Isabella Mwampamba.

Mwampamba (46), cheated death after testing positive for Covid-19 and being subjected to isolation in March this year. Mwampamba who is a degree holder, wife, mother and development activist cum entrepreneur, has invested heavily in education and sports.

Born at Peramiho suburb of Songea Town in Ruvuma region in 1974 being first-born in the family of the late Hamis Mpandi, Mwampamba made headlines after Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu declared her the first Covid-19 patient.

“I’m so grateful to my father the late Hamis Mpandi-- may his soul rest in peace -- and my mother Theresia, for raising in an African way of life,” she said. The mother of three daughters, Mwampamba was enrolled at Wanging’ombe Primary School where she completed her primary education in 1988.

Her early school days started brightly after emerging as sole pupil who passed standard seven national examinations at the school and was selected to join Iringa Girls Secondary School in 1989 where she passed Ordinary Level Secondary Education Certificate with flying colours in 1992. She proceeded to A-Level studies at Shycom High School in Shinyanga taking a combination of Economics, Commerce and Accounts.

Again she excelled in national examinations obtaining division two at Advanced Secondary Education Examinations in 1995. “I could not wait to join the Institute of Finance Management in Dar es Salaam to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce, but to my surprise, I wasn't selected, despite my performance compared to my colleagues who got chance,” she recalls.

Mwampamba opted to join Tengeru Community Development Training Institute in Arusha to pursue her degree between 1997/99.

“I remember telling a certain official at Ministry of Community Development, I can’t remember his name, please take me as your own daughter, shouldn't be selected this year, my entire life dreams will be ruined,” she stated adding that we went on to get enrolment at Tengeru CDTI.

Fortune beckoned of her again when Reverend Wilson Kimaro of Arusha-based Calvary Temple Church (TAG) told her to represent the church at a crucial meeting with Ethiopian Michael Wolde Shefaraw who came to introduce the Children Ministry under Compassion International in the country.

As a third year student, she was among the first Compassion International volunteer to attend that meeting held at Masoka in Moshi municipality for a week and was interpreter of Shefaraw who was explaining objectives of the project. “After completing my studies the same year I was temporary employed with Calvary Temple as a social worker before resigning to join PRIDE Tanzania as credit officer in 2000,” she recounted. 

She then spent a decade at Pride Tanzania before quitting to start her own business in 2010 thanks to a family plot located at Matevesi suburb of Arusha municipality where she established an entrepreneurship centre for women, mostly those who were engaging in livestock keeping.

“Thank God, I had successfully managed to convince hundreds of such women to engage in poultry, dairy, knitting and selling beads to tourists. We then established savings and credit groups through which I connected them to financial institutions,” she explained. 

In 2005 with the support of her husband, Daniel Mwampamba, she started a makeshift kindergarten classroom which she officially registered in 2009 an English medium school known as Upendo Friends School.

“My first born daughter, Karin Mwampamba, was the first pupil before her three siblings also joined the pre-school and later primary school with a modest fee of 100/- a day,” she added saying the amount was big for some parents to afford hence chose to help them anyway.

“If one really wants to do something, he or she always can.  Where there’s a will, there’s away,” she explained. Her private school now enrols 350 pupils for both kindergarten and primary education. “As we are talking today, over 1,000 pupils have passed through Upendo Friends School and are pursuing further education elsewhere with my first standard seven leavers graduating in 2015,” the Covid-19 survivor noted.

To ensure that pupils also get training on physical education, Mwampamba  established a sports academy to nurture young talents. Currently the academy has enrolled 260 boys and girls aged between five and 20 years who are mainly playing football. Nearly 80 percent of footballers enrolled to the academy come from public and neighbouring private schools.

 “My vision is to promote both football and athletics to start with,” she stated while revealing that her target is to establish a modern athletic academy in Mbulu district of Manyara region in future with coveted athlete, John Stephen Akhwari overseeing the academy as in-charge.

Contracting and healing of Covid-19

In recognition of her successes, Thomas More University of Belgium invited her in March this year to take part in an International Day event welcomes global guests to visit and among other things, compare notes and share experience. “I used the opportunity also to visit KRC Genk, a team which a renowned Tanzanian footballer, Mbwana Samatta used to play for,” she narrated.

 During the visit, Mwampamba talked with management of the KRC Genk asking the team to consider supporting budding young football talents from Tanzanian. “Much as I learnt how Belgians fought against Covid-19, I voluntarily went to Mount Meru Hospital upon my arrival to test my status although I wasn’t feeling sick,” she explained.

 While waiting for results from National Health Laboratory in Dar es Salaam, Mwampamba received a call from Health Minister,  Ummy Mwalimu several days later, asking for personal information. Shortly after the conversation, the Health Minister announced that Tanzania has confirmed its first imported Covid-19 case.

She was shifted from an isolation hotel at Kilimanjaro International Airport to a government designated Covid-19 patients’ isolation centre in Arusha city where she was quarantined for two weeks. “My family members, particularly my husband, was initially shocked, but they gained hope when they realized, I was still stable as days rolled by,” she recalled.

While quarantined, Isabella resorted to water therapy, drinking at least three -four litres a day, exercising, dancing music, reading books and choosing positive current affairs issues to listen to. After six days of the quarantine she tested negative and was allowed to go back home to join her family. 

“I thank God, for a strong President John Pombe Magufuli, who also a strong Christian faithful for the way that he has handled the coronavirus pandemic,” she noted saying the head of state’s emphasis on prayer and fear eradication among Tanzanians, is credited for the current low Covid-19 cases.

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