Friday, August 17, 2018

Book Nook: My Father's Gift

Immigration is arguably the most polarizing issue facing America today. Debates erupt over how we should treat illegal immigrants, their children, refugees, and other groups seeking entry. But Sixtus Z. Atabong, PA-C left his impoverished African village more than two decades ago in pursuit of the American dream—and his profound perspective will surprise you.
In My Father’s Gift (Koehler Books, August 24, 2018) Atabong brings readers on his tireless journey to escape hardship and achieve a bright future in America. Now President and Founder of 

Purpose Medical Mission and a Neurosurgery Physician Assistant, Atabong’s inspiring story illustrates the power of faith and the value of freedom—America’s indispensable gift that is often taken for granted.

I had a chance to interview Mr. Atabong to learn more.

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?
A gentleman who met with me to seek my advice about building a clinic in South Sudan recommended that I consider writing a book about my story.  I didn’t see myself as a writer and I didn’t think my story was unique, but he insisted that I needed to write a journal for my kids as no one would be able to tell my story better. He said, “Sixtus, you should aspire to inspire before you expire.” So, this began as a journal for my children. A year later I was fortunate to work with a journalist who was sent to cover my story for a humanitarian award that I was receiving in Washington, DC. She introduced me to my publisher and asked me to send my journal/rough draft to them. They thought my story was compelling enough to share with the world. I am humbled by the response I am receiving and hope that this will inspire personal growth for the readers and a positive impact in our communities. 

Q: What do you think will surprise people the most about your story?
That I never gave up. Without reading the entire story, when people see me today they will never understand the struggles I went through. By reading the story people will better understand how we find our own identity, and why we must never give up on helping others to find theirs. Giving up on our challenges could be an easy way out, but this is how we define ourselves. It is how we determine our strengths and weakness. 

Q: How can people support and encourage immigrants in their communities?
The first and most important thing to do is to accept them. The worst feeling for any immigrant is that of rejection. Most of them have come from places where they are already being rejected by their own people. Always remember that they are here in search of freedom. They came here for opportunities. By nature, immigrants are resilient and if given the chance will work hard to succeed. A few may need material support, but most just want to work toward a better life. Accept them in your schools, in your places of worship, and at your jobs. Ask them about their homes and the families they have left behind. When I talk to immigrants and listen to their stories, it helps me appreciate what this country means to me. I am living proof that helping another will pay back dividends. I found my way of giving through the people and organizations that helped me along the way.

SIXTUS Z. ATABONG, PA-C,  President and Founder of Purpose Medical Mission (PMM), is a Neurosurgery Physician Assistant. PMM is a nonprofit organization focusing on developing sustainable healthcare infrastructure and services in developing countries. It has helped build clinics and hospitals in Cameroon, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.

Atabong has received numerous prestigious awards for his leadership and humanitarian work, including the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Hall of Fame Award and the American Red Cross Humanitarian of Year Award. In 2013, he was awarded the PA Service to the Underserved Award by the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

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