Even in the midst of a Ugandan refugee camp, Denis Yengi CPA knew he needed an education to make his dreams come true. So he did everything in his power to get it.
Denis, who is now a South Australian Department of Health and Ageing assistant category manager, was just seven years old when his peaceful life in South Sudan was forever shattered by the country’s brutal civil war.
Forced to flee on foot into Uganda with his family, he spent the next 13 years in a United Nations refugee tent city battling extreme poverty and the constant threat of starvation.
With food and shelter not always reliable, Denis said education was an unaffordable luxury – but he refused to give up.
Education to reach accounting dreams
“When I was in grade nine I really didn’t have anyone to pay for my school fees, so I had to convince the high school teacher to allow me to study in return for cleaning the school,’’ he said.
“I was determined, because I knew I needed an education to achieve my dream.’’
Denis’s dream was to become an accountant – a passion inspired by a man who handled the offerings of his local church parishioners and who was held in high esteem.
Still, Denis’s prospects looked bleak until a surprise camp visit from his Uncle Ben Yengi OAM, who had moved to Australia in the 1970s, began a process that eventually helped him to immigrate to Australia. It took five long years.
Culmination of childhood dreams leads to CPA Australia
Despite his hardships, Denis said he now thanked God for the experiences of his youth because the lessons of endurance, strength and determination he had learned were now invaluable.
“In the camp you really had to do everything you can to persevere and to learn how to look for solutions to things which are not easy, ’’ he said.
“It also taught me to develop relationships with the people you need to survive and succeed.’’
Denis said becoming a CPA truly was the culmination of his childhood dreams – opening up a number of personal and professional opportunities and allowing him to share his story with the world.
The local South Sudanese community leader said he had chosen to serve in the public service for a decade – rising through the ranks – as his way of giving back and saying thank you to his adopted country of Australia.
“I’m eager now to explore opportunities outside the government and hopefully I’ll be able to work in the private sector – or one day maybe even the UN,’’ he said.
Denis Yengi CPA’s top tips for graduates who are starting their accounting careers:
- It’s good to dream big and stick to it. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, eventually you’ll realise that dream
- Complete a career analysis. It helps you work out where you want to go, as well as highlighting your weak points so that they’re easier to address
- Maintain great relationships with your mentors, past and present managers so that they can and will advocate for you as needed