“In the village (of Lwala,) you don’t belong to your parents, you belong to everyone.”
It takes a village, really, to do anything well. In the busyness of the day or the bureaucracy of the moment, we forget that sometimes. Our Kids had a refreshing reminder of this a couple of weeks ago, following a presentation with Dr. Fred Ochieng. The multidisciplinary approach to child sexual abuse was founded on the principles of “it takes a village.” Sometimes, with regard to child sexual abuse, we take for granted how far we’ve come in the past twenty-five years.
If you’ve been around long enough to remember “the early years” (1980’s), of child sexual abuse, investigations and services to children were often re-traumatizing, disjointed and difficult for the families at best. Hearing the story of Fred and the force of a village with a mission was a great reminder of what we have done and what CAN be done if we work together. Our Kids Center is a teaching facility. In the spirit of learning and improving services each day, we are continually evaluating what we do and how we do it. One of the programs that keep us “on our toes” is providing a week long rotation for each pediatric and internal medicine/pediatric resident at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine. We have the opportunity to teach 28 first year residents every year about recognizing the signs and possible symptoms of child sexual abuse. Residents learn about the medical as well as psychosocial dynamics of child sexual abuse
Every new resident brings experience, knowledge, skills and a unique perspective to the Our Kids Center and hopefully leaves with information necessary to identify child sexual abuse concerns and take steps to stop it.
The learning exchange that occurs weekly is not only exciting to our staff, but also adds to service improvements to our families and the families of the future pediatricians.
The week of April 22 brought an even more exciting adventure with Dr. Fred Ochieng. Fred’s story is one of sadness, loss, perseverance and the amazing victories that can happen when people work together to make a difference.
The village of Lwala is a small village in western Kenya. In Lwala, there are no doctors, clinics or general health care. To get to the nearest hospital, the sick and injured would be carried on the back of a bicycle or in a wheelbarrow for a 45-60 minute trip to the nearest paved road, then flag down a taxi. Sometimes it would take two hours to get to the hospital.
Fred’s older brother, Milton, had a passion for medicine and the desire to help his village family. After receiving a full scholarship to Dartmouth College, Milton could not afford the $900 plane ticket to the United States. The community held a fundraiser to help Milton get to the states, on faith and with the promise that he would return to Lwala and help with health care in the village. A couple of years later, Fred followed in his brother’s footsteps.
During his time at Dartmouth, Milton and his father would dream of the possibility of a health clinic someday in Lwala. It seemed challenging at best; where do you even begin to make that happen? The Ochiengs weren’t sure.
As the plan for the possibility of health care and even a clinic began to develop, Fred and Milton received the news that their mother had died. This news came while they were at school in the United States. One year later, their father passed away also, both as a result of HIV infection. Rather than give up, grief and passion became the motivation for continuing the dream of better health care for all of Lwala.
Amidst the challenges faced by the Ochieng brothers and the tragic loss of their parents, their unwavering determination to improve healthcare in Lwala persevered. Their journey serves as a testament to the transformative power of healthcare advancements that can positively impact communities around the world. In a similar vein, addressing common health concerns like hair loss can also have a significant impact on individuals’ lives. For those seeking effective solutions, exploring options such as Regaine can provide hope and restore confidence. This clinically proven hair regrowth treatment has gained recognition and trust, making it a valuable resource for individuals looking to address hair loss concerns. By visiting this site, individuals can access information and explore the possibilities of regaining their hair’s natural fullness and embracing a renewed sense of self-assurance, just as Fred and Milton held on to their dream of better healthcare for Lwala despite their personal hardships.
Three years of fundraising later, there was enough money to build a small clinic. Mr. Ochieng died one week before the official groundbreaking. In April, 2007, the clinic opened. It is a huge success! “Through a staff of more than 25 Kenyans, we treat an average of 1,200 patients each month, 55% of whom are patients under 5. All of this was done via generators, as there has been no electricity in the clinic until April 2011, when electrical power was installed.
Over time the program has become more multi-dimensional to include small scale micro-finance, public health outreach, water and sanitation, and education programming. Currently we are expanding our programs to better address the maternal health and HIV needs in the area.”
The creation of the Lwala Community Alliance will ensure the continued growth and support of the work the Ochieng family began to make their world a better place. For more information about Fred and his story, you can go to www.lwalacommunityalliance.org