African foundation meets new partners on tour of America

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By Dan Ogola, Special to CNN

Editor's NoteDan Ogola is the founder and director of the Matibabu Foundation, a organization in Eastern Africa creating jobs and opportunity through healthcare. Founded in 2006, Matibabu has offered health services to over 60,000 Kenyans. It recently opened the community’s first hospital, a state-of-the art facility drawing new businesses to one of the country’s poorest regions. 

As a result of a CNN profile on "The Next List," Matibabu Foundation got invited to the recent Global Health and Innovation Conference at Yale University by the event organizers, Unite for Sight. As Social entrepreneurs, myself and Dr. Fred Okango expanded the scope of the trip to include contact with potential partners. Our goal was to espouse our vision of a healthy, productive, and prosperous society in Western Kenya through the efforts of an empowered community and strengthened systems.

We travelled the length and breadth of the United States from New York, to Yale University in Connecticut, to Boston and Washington D.C., to Atlanta and South Carolina, and finally to the west coast, visiting both San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Throughout our trip, we were encouraged to find our vision and mission well received. Our ultimate concern is moving people from poverty into prosperity using health as a tool to improve productivity. This is done through empowering people to identify, cultivate and maximize their God-given talents for individual and collective good.

    We, the Matibabu Foundation, started by treating sick people, then we got involved in prevention of disease and health promotion, and finally we are at the stage of empowering women and girls through education. Our approach of having a model center of excellence in health and education, as well as strengthening existing services in both fields was reinforced during this visit. To achieve all these, Matibabu needs like-minded partners.

    In order to be a center of excellence, Matibabu must get involved with research by partnering with academic and research institutions, opportunities we discussed in meetings with the Brookings Institute, Battelle and the International Center for Research on Women. We explored opportunities of partnering with the Medical University of South Carolina in mental-health research as well as nursing students exchange programs with Matibabu’s future nursing school. Students at Yale also welcomed the idea of exchange programs.

    To enhance our health provision abilities, Matibabu is establishing a sister facility in the U.S. which will enable the exchange of best practices, information, and technology. Marine County Clinic in Northern California has already agreed to be a sister facility and Matibabu is also exploring other linkages with Marine General Hospital and El Camino Hospital in San Francisco.

    In order to equip our hospital, California’s Discover the World, Medshare, and Palo Alto University Rotary Club have all expressed interest in working with us.

    To promote girl child education opportunities, Miss Porter’s Girls School students agreed to be pen-pals with the girls at Lifunga Girls Secondary School in Western Kenya. They also agreed to donate books and other learning materials, including computers, to facilitate their interaction. Foundation for Freedom, located in San Francisco, is already sponsoring the Matibabu Smart Center and they’ve committed to doing more for the center in the future.

    During the informative discussions held with our main funders, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and the Tiba Foundation in San Francisco, we explored ways and means of continuing our partnership into the future. We also participated in a very successful fundraiser officiated by Tiba Foundation.

    The success of this trip was made possible through contacts established after my appearance on CNN’s "The Next List." It was beyond our wildest dreams that we were going to have such a successful trip since we arrived at JFK airport with only $200 to take care of our food, accommodation and travel expenses for the whole trip.

    We appreciate support given to us by Mr and Mrs. Lindroth family in Connecticut; friends such as Joel Lamstein, Bret Ericson, H.E. Dr. Wenwa Akinyi Odinga Oranga, Catherine Lindroth, Aubryn Sidle,Dr. Jeni Gamble, Renee Saunders, Diane Flournoy, Mr and Mrs. Gary Glide family, Mr and Mrs. David Mumbo, Prof. Sakti Das, Susan Olfson, Joel Martin, Mr and Mrs. Maurice Othieno, Mr and Mrs. Paul Oseso, Patrick Amenya, Mr and Mrs. Lewis Perry, Elder C. Towne, Tracy Dorsey, Dr. Amanda Schoenberg, Miss Nthenya Ndunda, Prof. Mutindi Kiluva, Dr. Fred Owuor, Dr. Gail Wagner, Ms. Kumkum Amin, Mr and Mrs. Awich, Prof. Henry Adala, Mr. Joseph Adewa, Dr. Peter Sherris and family, Dr. Richard Gofrey, Miss Nicole Awich, Chloe Morozoff; and the well-wishers who paid for part of our travel costs during this tour.