By Dan Ogola, Special to CNN
Editor’s Note: Dan 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. Ogola will be featured on CNN’s The Next List this Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.
(CNN) — I was born 35 years ago in Ugenya, Kenya, as the fifth of eight children. My brother passed on when he was two months old as a result of malaria. He was not taken to hospital but instead anointed with oil by a priest to “cure” him. Our third born was disabled due to polio, and hidden in the house due to the stigma, and could not attend school. My father died when I was 19 years old leaving my mother to take care of us.
My mother, Patricia Ogola, was an uneducated housewife married at the age of 15, and because of the many children she had, she struggled to make ends meet by brewing the local traditional brew. This led to a lot of run-ins with the local policemen who demanded bribes for her to continue making the illicit brew, driving the family into further poverty.
Due to the difficulties in Ugenya for our family, my brothers and I left for Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city, to try and do odd jobs in order to support ourselves and the family back at home.
My mother’s case is a typical case of women in Ugenya. Many were married young and had several children as they were uneducated and did not have access to family planning. Many were also widowed because of HIV/AIDS thus increasing their poverty levels as they were unemployed. Many others also died while giving birth due to inaccessibility of health facilities. Many children also suffered the fate of my brothers.
Women and children in Ugenya need to lead healthy, productive, and prosperous lives.
I founded the Matibabu Foundation, which aims to create jobs and opportunity by promoting better access to healthcare services.
Through my initiative and partnership with Dr. Gail Wagner, Dr. Amanda Schoenberg, Dr. Ram Ramachandra, and other American medical personnel, my community has had access to specialized health care. Also the elites (professionals and business people) of Ugenya living in urban areas and the diaspora, have been convinced to give back to the community.
Because of the good relationship I have cultivated with the Government, the community has benefited tremendously through the Matibabu-government partnership that has provided surgical services as well as HIV/AIDS services.
I also have convinced the local corporate giants like Kenya’s leading bank, KCB to exercise their social responsibility to serve the community. The University of Nairobi, Bondo University College, and Great Lakes University, three of Kenya’s top colleges, have all expressed interest in partnering with us.
The results have been numerous. Here are a few ways the foundation is helping:
– Health: Matibabu foundation clinics and partnerships with ICAP to strengthen health systems in Government facilities.
– Education: Seed Academy in Nairobi’s Kibera slums and Lifunga Girls secondary school in Ugenya which addresses at risk girls.
– Poverty Alleviation: The Zuia vocational training for girls and women to equip them with embroidery, tailoring, and computer skills. Community empowerment through Youth Friendly Centers that provide sexual and reproductive health education, as well as income generating activities. Build capacity of women through adult literacy and numeracy classes, entrepreneurship, leadership, and best practices in food security at the smart center- a facility begun in the rural Ugenya that helps women succeed in life.
– Nutrition: We are working with AMREF to improve food security of OVC’s in Ugenya in partnership with Ministry of Agriculture.
In the future, I see myself connecting people countywide and countrywide in dealing with determinants of poor health such as poor education and poverty.