Exquisite Safaris Philanthropic Travel Worldwide supports Visionary Philanthropic Travelers like Milton, Maurice and Fred Ochieng. In just one morning or afternoon you too can experience the success of the Ochieng Brothers efforts. Their project is in a close proximity to the Great Migration across the Serengetti Plains, fishing Lake Victoria or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. 10% of our profit from your private guided flying safari and your spare change go directly to support their work.
Who are you, where do you come from, what are you attempting to accomplish?
My name is Frederick Otieno Ochieng and I am the third born in a family of six children. My brother Milton Oludhe Ochieng is currently in his third year of medical school at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine whereas I am in the first year class. We all grew up in Lwala, a rural village without running water or electricity, in Nyanza province of Kenya. To get to see a doctor, one walks five and a half miles down an unpaved road, then waits for public service vans, matatus, to take them on a bumpy twenty mile ride to the nearest government owned hospital. The lack of health facilities at times had tragic consequences. We vividly remember how one time, a pregnant mother who developed complications during labor had to be hauled in a neighbor’s wheelbarrow to try to get her to the paved road then to the hospital, passed away en route. The body of the baby and the mother were returned to a wailing village by the same wheelbarrow. While growing up, we were always aware of the lack of health care in our village and surrounding communities. Both Milton and I got interested in medicine. With inspiration from a cross-cultural service trip to Nicaragua during his undergraduate years in Dartmouth College when they built a medical clinic, Milton was inspired to start a clinic in our village during his first year of medical school. He consulted via e-mail and phone with my ailing father, Mr. Erastus Ochieng. He spoke with me about the vision. In early 2005, while he and my father worked on the plans and details, he asked me to begin fundraising for the clinic. During a Navigators Northeast Conference at the end of January 2005, I gave an address to students and staff from some thirteen colleges and universities who raised $9,000 for the clinic. Unfortunately, along the way, we lost both our parents to AIDS. Beloved Margaret in January 2004 and Erastus in May 2006. My eldest brother Maurice Omondi Ochieng has taken over the role of the coordinator back in Lwala, working with the community members. The vision has gathered momentum. We hope to see patients early April 2007. Now we need funds and partners to sustain the running of the clinic.
How do two brothers in a remote village in Kenya get scholarships to Dartmouth and attend medical school at Vanderbilt?
My mother taught in primary school and my father taught Chemistry and Biology in secondary school. They both valued education; they acquired loans to send us to good boarding schools and instilled in us good discipline. Milton was the first to qualify for admission to Alliance High School, the oldest and probably the finest high school in Kenya. I joined him a year later. In his third year, he was one of the two students selected to represent Alliance High School on an exchange program with Brooks School, Andover, Massachusetts. He met Alliance alumni who were attending Harvard, MIT and other colleges in the U.S. The capable advisors and fellow students guided us through the test and application process. We both gave up our chances to attend medical school in Nairobi University for liberal arts training at Dartmouth College in the U.S. The need-blind admission policy offered a unique opportunity for a wonderful education for both of us. Getting into medical school is especially tough for an international student given the narrow selection of schools that admit them. However, Milton, a Biochemistry major, was later accepted into Yale, Vanderbilt and Dartmouth Medical Schools. Warm weather for his tropical soul, a full tuition Deans Scholarship, amongst other things drew Milton to Vanderbilt. A Biophysical Chemistry major, I got in after taking a year off to do chemistry research at Dartmouth, fundraising and conducting a needs assessment survey for the clinic. Looking at how far we have come, we are always heartbroken to reflect upon the countless sacrifices our parents made for us to get educated, yet neither of them ever witnessed our college graduations nor ever got to see the country where they had faith to let their children go to learn.
What challenges do you face starting and managing a medical clinic in a remote village in Kenya while attending medical school in Nashville, TN?
Medical School is very involving and intense. It is tough staying on top of the material you cover, making time to exercise and play soccer, let alone fundraising, and designing a functional clinic thousands of miles away. Poorly developed communication infrastructure in the village makes it tough to connect and frankly, quite frustrating. My brother Omondi has to travel to Rongo town nine miles away to charge his cell phone. Due to the eight hour time difference, we try to call either early in the day or late at night here in the U.S. We are but novices. There are lots of complex decisions that we have to wade through.
How would you describe the current need for medical, educational and basic infrastructure in Kenya?
Very urgent, especially referring to medical services and basic infrastructure. There are many more educational facilities around. However, with the HIV/AIDS pandemic, TB, malaria menace, just to mention a few, there is need for a more robust health network. Unfortunately, some recent changes may not be beneficial. Mandatory retirement at the age of 55 for physicians and the fact that young doctors right out of medical school are no longer assured of assimilation into the field are two examples of recent policy recommendations.
What’s your vision for the future of Lwala/Kenya?
To provide affordable health care to thousands in a rural setting.
To address and reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.
To improve maternal and child health.
To improve the education of youths in Lwala and introduce microfinance projects.
How often do you travel back to Lwala?
Once a year, as school schedule and money allow. This year, due to the opening of the clinic, we may get to go home twice.
What went through your mind the first hours you arrived in the United States? What would you expect would go through the mind of a philanthropic traveler the first hours they arrived in your village?
Coming into the U.S., everything was suddenly bigger than what I was accustomed to. The tall buildings in Boston as we landed in Logan Airport were impressive. Then coming into Dartmouth during orientation, the amount of food at different stations to welcome the 1st year students baffled me. Food back at home was tightly controlled. I had to whisper to Milton to check if we had to pay for the food. A philanthropic traveler who arrives in the village is likely to be met with smiles from locals. Unpaved bumpy roads, latrines (outhouses), lack of running water, paraffin lamps at night, seeking refuge under mosquito nets and waking up to loud cockerels in the morning all prompt a philanthropic traveler to compare comforts back at home to the village.
Do you feel that having a philanthropically inclined traveler visit Lwala would inspire them to become more or less involved in the projects success than merely reading about it on the internet?
Seeing this part of the world is such a great experience and such a wonderful opportunity to see how people in a completely different area of the world lead their lives. You get a glimpse of the infrastructure and the milieu and can thus be more involved in the project success.
Would philanthropic travelers be welcomed by the citizens of your village?
They would be warmly welcomed by the villagers. Many of the preceding guests have had positive relationships with the villagers via their interactions. Above all, the villagers welcome and trust our friends since they trust that we are positively representing them abroad as good ambassadors.
What are your feelings regarding the potential of philanthropic travel to connecting people at the heart and create a world of compassion?
I think that people who travel gain an invaluable experience and a better understanding of many issues facing the people in areas different from their own. Consequently, one becomes a better citizen of the world . Combining philanthropy with an exposure to a completely different way of life benefits both sides, given the right attitude and expectations. What a unique opportunity to appreciate a place and be involved in important issues facing its people.
What is your passion beyond the project?
Soccer, Volleyball, Basketball amongst other sports.
Medicine and Healing.
Faith, family and friendships.
Music and movies.
Who is your favorite comedian?
What kind of world do you want to live in?
A world where people care for one another and actively seek to love their neighbor as themselves.
Check out the video of the interview: Milton Ochieng in Lwala, Kenya