Inspirational Story


It is with heavy hearts that we reflect on the remarkable life of Debbie Osarere Idiagbonya, who has passed away. Her story, though marked by the trials of battling breast cancer, also serves as a testament to resilience and unwavering determination. Initially thrust into the public eye during her cancer diagnosis, Debbie’s journey was one of courage and fortitude.

Despite overcoming breast cancer in 2013, the disease’s relentless spread to her liver and bones posed new challenges. Yet, amidst personal loss and health struggles, Debbie’s optimism and fighting spirit remained undiminished.

This interview, conducted in December 2015 in Esther Ijewere’s column in the Sun Newspaper, was her last major interview before she died in April 2016, capturing a glimpse of Debbie’s indomitable spirit and unwavering resolve in the face of adversity.


Debbie Osaerere Idiagbonya

Reaction to liver and bone cancer diagnosis

At first, I thought I was free from one deadly attack and now the cancer has spread. Well, like the doctors would say, I had metastatic breast stage IV cancer.I told myself my battle with cancer had just begun. I just focused on being positive believing God is going to make everything work out for my good. Always smile and dance when you hear bad news. My medical team (doctors) were trying to console me by saying: “First, we have good news and bad news, which one do you want to hear first”?All I said was I’m used to good news, but I will listen to the bad news first. My oncologist said, “I’m happy your chemotherapy is working for your liver but sorry the cancer came back to your bones”. I have been fighting since December 12, 2011. God will never leave me. I have survived breast cancer stage IV, I’m surviving liver cancer so how many bones? I’ve survived it before and I will survive it again. I will never lose my fighting spirit.

Deborah Osarere Idiagbonya: Remembering A Courageous Breast Cancer Survivor

Tempted to give up on life

Through all these health challenges I have never been tempted to give up on life. I just keep staying focused and optimistic believing in the healing power of God. God has been my sustainer.

What keeps her going?

God keeps me going and the stories of survivors I have met.I have had the opportunity of listening to the challenging stories of survivors and positive-minded people around me. This has been my glimmer of hope

Debbie Osarere Idiagbonya

Spiritual Transformation

The health challenges have enhanced my faith in God. I used to think I wasn’t ready for something super challenging. I never thought I would be diagnosed with life threatening diseases especially when it’s not in my family. I find myself becoming stronger in my hope of defeating cancer.

Advise for Individuals Battling Health Challenges

I will advise individuals battling health challenges to keep their hopes alive. You may have been challenged, hurt, or delayed but remember you’re still alive. You have cancer, it doesn’t need to affect your spirit. You should live like a victor of cancer and not like a victim. Always remember that those who sow in tears shall reap with songs of joy.

The ‘New’ Debby

My outlook on life has changed and has my spiritual life, through it all, these challenges have strengthened my resolve to live life and live it to the fully

Debbie Osaere

Being a woman of rubies

My definition of a woman of rubies is a damsel who doesn’t fit into stereotypes. I am pleased being myself. I have great self-esteem and confidence which makes me willing to seek out and accept challenges. I want to inspire people with my story. This is what being a woman of rubies should be about. It should be about you overcoming adversity and using your story to inspire others.

Deborah Osarere Idiagbonya

Phiona Mutesi’s remarkable journey is a testament to the human spirit’s resilience and determination. It’s a story that originates in the heart of Katwe, an impoverished neighborhood in Kampala, Uganda, and weaves together the unlikely elements of chess, adversity, and a meteoric rise to global recognition. Her inspiring journey, which carried her from the gritty streets of Katwe to becoming an international chess sensation, served as the compelling inspiration for the Disney movie ‘Queen of Katwe.’

Early Life in Katwe

Phiona Mutesi was born in 1993 in Katwe, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Kampala, Uganda. Her childhood was marked by severe poverty, struggles for daily survival, and limited access to education. Life in Katwe was a constant battle for many, and the idea of a young girl from this community becoming an international chess champion seemed like an impossible dream.

The Discovery of Chess

Phiona’s life took a dramatic turn when she was introduced to the game of chess at the age of nine by Robert Katende, a missionary and chess coach who worked with the Sports Outreach Institute. Katende saw something special in Phiona’s keen intellect and raw talent for the game. With rudimentary chess sets and a passion for learning, she began her journey into the world of chess.

Rising Against the Odds

Phiona’s progress in chess was nothing short of extraordinary. Despite the challenges of poverty, she displayed unwavering determination, practicing tirelessly on improvised chessboards. Katende provided her with valuable mentorship and encouraged her to participate in local chess tournaments.

Her remarkable rise in the Ugandan chess scene began to attract attention both nationally and internationally. She represented Uganda in various chess competitions, competing against seasoned players from around the world. Phiona’s performance in these tournaments showcased her incredible potential and resilience.

The Disney Movie ‘Queen of Katwe’

Phiona Mutesi’s incredible story of triumph over adversity reached new heights when it was featured in a book by Tim Crothers titled “The Queen of Katwe.” This book detailed her life and journey in the world of chess, capturing the hearts of readers worldwide.

The story of Phiona’s life was subsequently adapted into a Disney movie titled ‘Queen of Katwe.’ The film, released in 2016 and directed by Mira Nair, starred Madina Nalwanga as Phiona, Lupita Nyong’o as her mother Harriet, and David Oyelowo as Robert Katende. The film not only showcased Phiona’s chess achievements but also highlighted the strength and resilience of the Katwe community.

Phiona Mutesi
LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 20: Phiona Mutesi attends the GO Campaign Gala 2018 at the City Market Social House on October 20, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)

Inspiring Generations

Phiona Mutesi’s story has inspired countless individuals worldwide, transcending geographical and cultural boundaries. Her journey from the challenging streets of Katwe to becoming a celebrated international chess champion has shown that perseverance and talent can break down even the most formidable barriers.

Moreover, her story has encouraged young girls in underprivileged communities to pursue their dreams and overcome adversity. Phiona’s journey sends a powerful message that greatness can emerge from unexpected places and that anyone, regardless of their background, can achieve extraordinary feats.

Phiona Mutesi’s remarkable journey from the slums of Katwe to international chess stardom and the Disney movie ‘Queen of Katwe’ serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration. Her story reminds us that with determination, mentorship, and the power of belief, individuals can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and achieve greatness. Phiona’s legacy continues to inspire and uplift people around the world, reinforcing the idea that dreams, no matter how improbable, are worth pursuing.

Sheila Ngoli Akputa wears two hats – one as a dedicated Business Analyst and the other as the compassionate founder of PESBODS (Peachman’s Smile Boosters Organization for Children Living with Disabilities, Autism, and Sickle Cell). Sheila is a person who exemplifies resilience, empathy, and the unwavering determination to make a difference in the lives of those facing adversity.

A Dual Role

Sheila’s days in the office involve meticulously dissecting complex data, finding innovative solutions to intricate problems, and contributing significantly to the workings of a government organization. It’s a role that demands precision, intellect, and strategic thinking. Yet, what sets Sheila apart is her remarkable ability to balance this demanding career with her other calling – advocating for children with disabilities.

PESBODS – A Beacon of Hope

PESBODS is not just an organization for Sheila; it’s a labor of love, a testament to her unwavering commitment to improving the lives of children facing significant challenges. This organization is a haven for children living with disabilities, autism, and sickle cell, and it extends its compassionate embrace to the caregivers who tirelessly support them.

Community Engagement Extraordinaire

Sheila’s deep knowledge of community-level engagement has been instrumental in driving PESBODS forward. She understands that change starts at the grassroots, and her dedication to grassroots advocacy is a testament to her true passion. Soft-spoken and humble, Sheila’s approachability endears her to all who have the privilege of knowing her.

Children with Disabilities
Sheila Ngoli Akputa- Founder, PESBODS

A Personal Mission

What sets Sheila’s advocacy apart is its deeply personal nature. Her son, who is about to turn eight, has faced countless medical procedures since just two weeks after his birth. Sheila has been a witness to her son’s resilience and the immense strength he summons daily. It’s a journey no parent should have to undertake, yet Sheila has done so with grace and tenacity.

Heartache and Loss

Sheila’s determination to make a difference is also rooted in heartache. She has tragically lost two cousins to sickle cell disease, a painful experience that left an indelible mark on her and her family. The loss of these young lives has been a stark reminder of the challenges many families face when dealing with disabilities and chronic illnesses.

Empowering Children

Sheila’s vision for PESBODS goes beyond providing assistance; it’s about instilling confidence and inspiring children to believe in their potential despite their disabilities. She wants these young souls to recognize their abilities, to aspire, and to know that their dreams are within reach.

In a world often focused on profit margins and individual success, Sheila stands as a beacon of compassion and empathy. Her dual roles as a proficient Business Analyst and a tireless advocate for children with disabilities are a testament to the multifaceted nature of her character. With her unwavering dedication and personal connection to the cause, Sheila is helping to reshape the lives of children and families in need, one smile at a time. She is a true inspiration to us all, reminding us that even in the most demanding of careers, there’s always room for compassion and the pursuit of a better world for those who need it most.