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“Remember Us”: How the Ochieng’ Brothers Helped Lwala

Riley Mack, Staff Writer

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Hanging along West Pine is a banner advertising for the ATLAS program. ATLAS Week focuses on different world issues specifically contiguous to the guest speakers. This year’s theme, “From Broken Walls, We Build Bridges,” became an evident message for the Signature Symposium, which was last Thursday, April 12. Fred and Milton Ochieng’ were the main act of the week as they explained their journey. From growing up in a small African village, playing soccer with a ball made of plastic bags and speaking in a nearly-full ballroom at a university about advancements for their community, the brothers engaged the audience with their life stories. These men helped to inspire others in the audience through their words.

Upon finding out Milton and Fred were accepted into Dartmouth with a full ride but with no funds to buy plane tickets, the village of Lwala sold their livestock so that the boys could fulfill their potential within the world of health care. But before the brothers left, their village had one recommendation,: “Remember us. When you come back, make sure you help our community.” This is exactly what the boys set out to do in America — except in a way their town never could have expected.

In Lwala, the Ochieng’ brothers experienced firsthand the devastation that the lack of healthcare brought to the people. Particularly, Milton spoke of his teen years, when his friend, Ben, had a pregnant mother that began to have complications in childbirth. He spoke of how difficult it was to get to the nearest hospital, with the whole trip taking nearly two hours; however, the men of the village got together that night to take Ben’s mother to get medical care. They then started on the long journey ahead of them. While being pushed in a wheelbarrow, Ben’s mother passed away along with her newborn. Milton recalls that “the next day, we woke up to the sound of the women in the village wailing, mourning Ben’s mom.” The images of the funeral of Ben’s mother and sister still engrained in the minds of the boys, Milton recalls that he will always remember this experience because it was so preventable with access to health care. This death, however, was the “death that made [Milton] want to become a doctor.”

While in school, the brothers’ mother passed away from AIDS. They knew that they needed to implement a health care facility within Lwala.

They used their goal for a class project at Dartmouth and began fundraising immediately. Fred, who was in charge of fundraising, recalled one instance when a little girl on the soccer team he coached emptied her piggy bank to donate to the cause, handing over $48 and a picture drawn of the future hospital. He remembered this moment and said, “When you’re on the brink of losing hope, these are the things that lift you up.” The last weekend of fundraising rolled around, but the brothers came up empty. However, Fred was asked to speak at a ministry conference about the cause. There, on that last day, the brothers earned $10,000 to start their clinic. “It was like seeing what God could do in the midst of all the misery that we had been experiencing,” Fred said.

At that point, their project began catching speed. Jars of Hope Foundation donated $40,000 to the clinic, which gave them the monetary leverage to start building. Just before the hospital’s ceremony, the Ochieng’ brothers’ father passed away due to HIV as well. Without their father to see their dreams come true, they were disheartened. Their dean asked whether or not they wanted to continue the project because of the tragedy, allowing them a pass within the class, Without hesitation, Milton said, “That would be a pass for me, but what about the people of my village?”

After the documentary, “Honoring a Father’s Dream: Sons of Lwala,” released on the success of Milton and Fred, the donations poured in, totaling over $230,000. With the money, the brothers started the clinic up with employees, medicine and some technology.

After the address, Matthew Blankley said, “They’ve never forgotten where they came from, and how they still have a passion to help the community that raised them.”. The theme of ATLAS week declares “Out of Conflict Rises Community,” and it could not have been more spot on for the signature speakers that night.

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“Remember Us”: How the Ochieng’ Brothers Helped Lwala