Proper motivation for you this week as Josué Mbala joins us in the studio for episode #079 of Paddy Holohan's No Shame Podcast. It's Leaving Cert week & this one is for all you brave 6th year students out there looking for a bit of inspiration ahead of the first exam on Wednesday. Although the Leaving Cert is undoubtedly an important test, there are far greater struggles we'll face in our lifetime. This episode is about a young man who faced these struggles throughout his educational journey & overcame them all in spectacular fashion.
In 2010, at just 13 years of age Josué Mbala (also known as Joshua) was forced to flee his native Congo, leaving behind his heartbroken mother. In pursuit of a better life, Joshua moved to Ireland to live with his father & without a word of English, was enrolled into secondary school. Mbala relied heavily on google translate to navigate through the early years of Irish life but by the time 6th year had come around he'd become fluent in English, his third language after Lingala & French.
Watch episode #079 of Paddy Holohan's No Shame Podcast below:
Just before his leaving cert, Mbala's Father moved to Belgium, leaving Joshua & his brother to fend for themselves in Kildare. The brothers fell into the hidden homeless bracket & relied heavily on couch surfing & the generosity of friends to stay a float. It was a lonely time for Josh & despite all the setbacks & challenges he'd faced in his short time in Ireland he obtained an astonishing 545 points in his Leaving Cert, an achievement that earned him his first choice subject in UCD, studying science.
The SUSI grant was enough to fund the first 2 years of his college education, during this time he was forced to find a job in order to pay the bills. He struggled to get work in Kildare & after months of trying, Joshua got an interview from McDonalds. Mbala says that the call he received from hiring manager, Samantha Kim Toner, was a life changing one as nobody had ever shown that faith in him before. Despite a hiccup with bus time tables, Joshua was successful in his application. His new job at McDonalds, allowed Joshua to find a place to rent in Dublin, & successfully navigate past the first 2 years of college with a 1:1 average.
Despite this, SUSI cut his funding due to the fact his father was no longer in the Country, the system was not designed to cater for students under 23 without a parent or guardian. Despite the fact Josh was achieving the highest results in his class, it was made clear to him by all parties involved that unless he could fund the last 2 years of his education he'd be thrown out of his course. It highlights the failings of our educational setup when one of our brightest students could have easily fallen through the cracks of a flawed system.
It forced Mbala to take on over 60 hours a week working in McDonalds, picking up every extra shift he could get. In his final year Josh was operating off 2-3 hours sleep a night before earning a paid internship as a research scientist with Alltech Ireland Ltd. During this time he had to vacate his job at McDonalds, he earned less with the internship & now he had to pay for food, his diet previously consisted of water & the free food he received at McDonalds.
Listen / Download episode #079 of Paddy Holohan's No Shame Podcast below:
After his placement he returned to McDonalds, saved up as much money as he could in order to stop work completely for the last two months of college so he could focus primarily on studying for his final exams. Despite all the odds Josué Mbala graduated from UCD with a first class honours (1:1)in science specialising in Microbiology. In September he starts a new job as a trainee tax advisor with PWC Ireland.
This weeks episode of No Shame is an incredible story of hard work & determination. The power of self belief & the desire to do something you truly love can trump everything, no matter how high the barrier or how big the challenge may be. If you truly want something & are willing to do anything to achieve that goal, nothing will get in your way. Josué Mbala came to Ireland as an immigrant & now considers himself a proud Irish Citizen.
If you're doing your Leaving cert this week or even just suffering a bit of the post bank holiday blues, then this episode is for you. You won't find better motivation of a Tuesday, from an inspiring, proud Irish citizen. Josué Mbala's story is incredibly powerful one that challenges some of the perceptions & prejudice surrounding immigrants in this country.
Episode #079 of Paddy Holohan's No Shame Podcast is available now across all the usual platforms including iTunes, Spotify & Youtube, check it out now.