PANAFRICAN CYCLE PROJECT
The name OGRA originates from the two first letters of Oguedhi and Rabuor, two small villages in rural western Kenya where the first OGRA projects were undertaken, initially as a youth development programme. OGRA was created by Dr Hezron Mc’Obewa, a Kenyan national who was sponsored to study medicine in the UK and later became a general practitioner before returning to his homeland. OGRA’s work comprises four broad areas that are largely interconnected. They include: Healthcare, Education, Water and Sanitation in addition to Volunteer Programmes. The projects that they have spearheaded are vast and it would take us months to personally visit each one in order to give a first hand account. Instead, here I will focus on the projects that we were fortunate enough to see in action and will summarize the remainder – the information largely taken from their 2010 annual programme report.
Healthcare – Ombeyi and Osani clinics
Located in the village of Ombeyi in western Kenya some 45 minutes drive from Kisumu is the OGRA medical centre and community hospital. It is an exceptionally well run and well maintained hospital that is well off the beaten track. It aims to provide essential healthcare to those either living too far from the local district hospital or those that are unable to afford it. This unit boasts both a 24 hour outpatient unit along with inpatient facilities with 30 beds across 4 specialities including male and female medical bays, a surgical bay, a paediatric bay, an obstetric bay in addition to two isolation bays. Other facilities that this rural clinic obtains that make it almost fully self sufficient include a well equipped laboratory and pharmacy. It has a minor surgical procedures theatre which doubles as an obstetric theatre. Both impressively and extremely important in this part of the world are its antenatal and postnatal services which continue to save the lives of pregnant women before, during and after childbirth. It has a comprehensive immunization unit and aims to reduce the incidence of malaria in the under 5’s by donating free mosquito nets to infants and toddlers. In addition, the medical centre runs Comprehensive Care Clinics (CCC) for HIV/AIDS patients. The complete care of these patients including diagnosis, counselling and patient support to those that test positive and treatment through CCC is completely free and there are currently 700 patients registered on this service alone. Furthermore, there is a community based care system in place to further monitor such patients and aid them through their treatment and to help overcome social stigma. This centre is staffed by 3 medical officers, 5 nurses, 2 laboratory technicians, 3 counsellors, 3 community health workers and 3 field officers. Future aims are to offer such posts to graduates of ISMAT and thus fulfil cycles of training local individuals who go on to providing care for their own communities. The OGRA medical centre and community hospital (with future collaboration with ISMAT) gives the local population a lifeline with a high standard of care as well as employment opportunities. Without such medical facilities many people will suffer the great burden of disease or simply die and this is the bleak reality for many people living in similar places without such intricate social input. Your generous donations will go to sustaining such projects and there should be no underestimating the extraordinary things that can occur if people are given the right opportunities.
Further to the south west, just off the shores of Lake Victoria is the extremely remote town of Ndhiwa and the Osani health clinic. This clinic, in contrast to the OGRA medical centre and Community hospital in Ombeyi, is very small, under staffed, has very few facilities and lacks electricity. Staffed by one clinical officer and one nurse, it aims to provide basic healthcare to those living in the remotest of areas. It has one consultation room for outpatient clinics and can hold up to 8 patients overnight for simple care such as IV fluids in the adjacent ward wing. HIV testing and counselling is available and in full use but those requiring treatment are referred to the nearest ARV centre (30km away). The clinic serves a patient population of between 5000 – 6000 people which is astonishing considering the lack of staff as well as the lack of basic laboratory and medical facilities. Nevertheless, without such a clinic in place, patients would be forced to travel the 30km to the next available centre – the vast majority on foot. After visiting the clinic, we decided to put some of the money donated towards purchasing a microscope and other equipment necessary for testing for malaria thus enabling its differentiation from a bacterial infection, most importantly typhoid. This simple but essential measure will help the clinician make a more accurate diagnosis (currently all based on clinical skills) and thus allow patients to be better treated.
Other projects of healthcare that OGRA are actively involved with include the Jones and Ringroad community hospital in the Nyalenda slum area in Kisumu (the second largest slum in Kenya) which provides preventive and curative health services, VCT (HIV testing), family planning, laboratory services and community outreach services. APHIA II (AIDS, population and Health Integrated Assistance) is another project which promotes behavioural changes through an integrated HIV prevention scheme as well providing increased access to reproductive health information at community level in 8 districts of the Nyanza province.
Education – ISMAT and Oasis of Hope secondary school
ISMAT is well covered in its own section so here is
a brief outline of the Oasis of Hope secondary school.
OGRA has assisted in the funding and running of this
secondary school which provides free or subsidized
education to orphans and other vulnerable children
from poor backgrounds in Kisumu and the surrounding
areas. Although primary education is subsidized by
the government in Kenya, secondary education is not
and so this particular project is truly liberating
for many teenage students and lays the path out of
poverty through education. It has some 260 students
and 12 full time volunteering teachers, many of which
have been former students themselves. Recent
developments funded through OGRA include a new concrete
building and classrooms, with the older corrugated
metal building now being used for an examination hall
and an extra classroom. The school has also has new
toilets built as well as a free standing water pipe that supplies the students with clean drinking water (courtesy of the Kenyan Orphan Programme and the Rotary club). Walking around the school grounds and classrooms, it was difficult not to be touched by the students’ eagerness to learn and participate in lectures despite the lack of modern facilities and overcrowded classrooms – a stark contrast to my own secondary education in London (excellent facilities but a lack of student enthusiasm). Our visit was brief but it highlighted that aid money, if well spent through well planned projects, can help create the conditions for development for a brighter future.
Orphan feeding project (Hannah)
The OMEN feeding centre was really the
starting point for OGRA. During the
course of his studies in England, Dr
Hezron had come back home to do his
medical elective here. As part of his
field research for a project on
HIV/AIDS, he visited schools in the
area around his mother’s village. In
Kenya, a punishment for a misbehaving
pupil is to be forbidden to go home to
receive lunch during the midday break.
Having returned several times to the
same school during the lunch hour, he
noticed that the same group of children
was always held behind, sitting under a
tree. He approached the teachers to
enquire: how badly had these students
misbehaved to be punished so on a daily
basis? The response was simple: these
children just didn’t have any home to
go back to to be fed. They were orphans.
It is estimated that around 550 000 children in Kenya are
orphaned through HIV/AIDS, and 10 000 in the Nyando district
alone. Their extended families, though they might be able to
provide them with a roof, are often too poor to afford their
other basic needs. Thus these children go hungry. As a result,
school drop-out levels are high among these people and this was
yet another incentive to start the Omen feeding centre. OGRA
supports 76 orphans in the district, providing them with two
meals a day (breakfast and lunch). Eight staff work full-time
to ensure the successful running of the centre.
On site, we meet Ada, a charismatic woman of around 50 who
lends a feeling of warmth and love to those in her surrounding.
Our visit is at lunch time, and the first thing we see on
arrival is a neat queue of children waiting to wash their hands
in turn outside the building (carefully so, with soap and
water, a rare sight!). Two long tables are set inside, and the children take their place in relative quiet. They have a song to welcome visitors and sing it for us, it starts as “Welcome visitors, welcome family, we’ve been waiting for a long, long time...” I couldn’t make out the rest, but it gave me goosebumps. The food arrives in huge pots: rice, ugali, greens, eggs and tomatoes. Food on an industrial scale, but covering all of the essential dietary needs of a growing child. Ada says a short prayer before we eat. The order in the hall is astounding. No loud talking, no agitation, no fighting, and when the children are finished, they each bring their plates outside to three large water-filled basins, where they wash their own plates in turn (what a great idea!).
It is an impressive visit, and leaves us all deeply touched.
In addition to health and education, OGRA is hugely
involved with water and sanitation programmes. Projects
such as the Hygiene Project and the Rural Clean Water
Project have been initiated and involve setting up hand
washing stations in hospitals and clinics, in orphanage
feeding centers and schools (all mentioned above). The
benefits are a reduction in child mortality through
prevention of diarrhea and pneumonia – both major causes
of death in children in Kenya. They are also looking
into the possibility of producing and selling soap in
order to make this initiative more sustainable. In
addition, OGRA have supplied poor rural communities with
bore holes (7 in 2010) and wells and so provided a basic
yet life saving supply of clean water to such
communities. Having been in Kenya for a month now, it
is easy to see what a massive impact this simple and
cheap process has on the lives of the individuals living in rural areas. On a daily basis we encounter people having to travel 20, 30 and sometimes 40km with two or three 20 liters jerry cans in order to bring clean water back to their homes. We cycled 7 days in the desert carrying a similar weight on our bicycles and I found it the most exhausting part of the trip so far. I couldn’t imagine having to do it on a daily basis in order to stay alive! We have therefore used a small portion of the money donated our cause in the purchase of a well-pump for a village called Palmasogo located 35km from Homa Bay on the east bank of Lake Victoria. This will provide approximately 150 local villagers as well as a neighboring school of 300 students with a constant supply of clean water all year round.
For more information on the OGRA foundation, visit:
To donate to the OGRA foundation through WASOT-UK (their sister charity in the UK), please go to :
Left: OGRA medical centre at Ombeyi
Right: Healthcare centre at Osani