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Man's Journey From Poverty In Cameroon To Harvard University Becomes Viral Inspiration

Man's Journey From Poverty In Cameroon To Harvard University Becomes Viral Inspiration

Desmond Jumbam has achieved a great deal in his 27 years on this Earth.

The health policy consultant at international non-profit cleft lip and palate organisation Operation Smile boasts a degree in biological sciences from Taylor University and a Master of Science degree in global health from the University of Notre Dame.

Desmond grew up in a poor family in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. Credit: Desmond Jumbam
Desmond grew up in a poor family in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. Credit: Desmond Jumbam

He also spent three years working at Harvard Medical School in the Program in Global Surgery and Social Change as a research assistant, health policy analyst and project coordinator.

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Oh, and now he also has the crown for 'Best How It Started/How It's Going Tweet'.

Desmond shared a photo of the home he grew up in from the age of five in Yaoundé, Cameroon, alongside his ID card from Harvard University - and the post has received a staggering 2.5 million likes since it was posted on Sunday (11 October).

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Desmond has also been inundated with messages from across the globe
- some kind, some inspiring and some about nail care.

Speaking to LADbible, Desmond said: "I have been moved and encouraged by the kind messages that I have received from millions of people online. Millions have sent messages of support and amazement at this accomplishment. Others have shared their own inspiring stories.

"I have also been amused by some of the comments, particularly those focused on my unkempt thumbnail. One comment with thousands of likes advised me to stop biting my nails. I found this particularly amusing."

The 'Best How It Started/How It's Going Tweet' award is one of Desmond's many accolades. Credit: Desmond Jumbam
The 'Best How It Started/How It's Going Tweet' award is one of Desmond's many accolades. Credit: Desmond Jumbam
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But of course, the majority of people are more interested in Desmond's life story - which is more interesting (and longer) than the thumbnail he exhibited while holding his Harvard Uni card.

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Desmond said: "As the first photo in the tweet implies, I grew up in a poor family in Yaoundé, the capital city of Cameroon. My single mother worked tirelessly as a cleaner, seamstress and cook for a missionary organization to send me to primary and secondary school in Yaoundé.

"It was not always easy but she and my father sacrificed a lot to ensure that I got the best education. In 2010, I travelled to the United States for college at a community college with enough tuition for one semester. My father and mother took a huge loan for that."

Desmond is now using his skills to improve health systems in Cameroon. Credit: Desmond Jumbam
Desmond is now using his skills to improve health systems in Cameroon. Credit: Desmond Jumbam
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With the help of family, friends, scholarships and a job as a tutor, Desmond was able to afford tuition for a 'very stressful first two years' in the US. But having gone on to achieve so much in the country, Desmond has now returned to Cameroon to deploy his education and skills there - as though his tale could get anymore inspiring.

He said: "Getting to Harvard had never really been a dream or a goal of mine. Growing up I had never heard of Harvard.

"My goal has always been to find the best route to gain skills and ability to improve health systems and the health of people back home and in Africa. Harvard just happened to be one route to get there."

You might anticipate that this article will now wrap up with some 'nothing is impossible' rhetoric from Desmond, but he is under no illusions - the odds are against those brought up in poverty. But as his story shows, with extra effort and resolve, dreams can be realised.

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Desmond couldn't have got as far as he has without the support of his family. Credit: Desmond Jumbam
Desmond couldn't have got as far as he has without the support of his family. Credit: Desmond Jumbam

He said: "I will avoid cliched advice like 'don't give up' and 'follow your dreams'. At the risk of sounding pessimistic, I would advise anyone with big dreams to expect and anticipate severe adversity ahead.

"By my estimation, everyone faces some kind of adversity in getting to their goals and dreams but the cards are especially stacked against those from disenfranchised poor communities. I was one of these children. I hope that my story will inspire children from poor backgrounds like mine to know that despite the severe adversities ahead, it is completely possible to achieve the dreams which may seem beyond their reach.

"It is also very important to work hard and work smart. Unfortunately for those from disenfranchised communities, they will need to work extra hard to overcome those obstacles. But as my story shows, it's entirely possible.

"I would also advise you to surround yourself with friends who believe in your dreams, who inspire you and want the best for you."

Featured Image Credit: Desmond Jumbam

Topics: Viral, Awesome, Daily Ladness, Community

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Jake Massey

Jake Massey is a journalist at LADbible. He graduated from Newcastle University, where he learnt a bit about media and a lot about living without heating. After spending a few years in Australia and New Zealand, Jake secured a role at an obscure radio station in Norwich, inadvertently becoming a real-life Alan Partridge in the process. From there, Jake became a reporter at the Eastern Daily Press. Jake enjoys playing football, listening to music and writing about himself in the third person.