When Milton Ochieng '04 and Fred Ochieng '05 left their small village of Lwala, Kenya for a private high school near Nairobi, they were struck by the comparative lack of health care in their hometown.
After graduating and receiving the Lombard Post-Grad Fellowship from the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, Fred returned home to Lwala in the summer with five Dartmouth students and alumni where he was soon reminded of the region's health care problems.
"A pregnant woman who was about to deliver developed complications and was being taken in a wheelbarrow down a dirt road to the nearest treatment facility," he said. "She bled to death on the way, and both the child and mother were lost."
Fred and Milton broke ground on the Lwala Community Clinic in June.
The facility is designed to serve the 4,000 residents of Lwala and the surrounding region who are currently without basic primary health care.
"We started fundraising in January and by the end of June we already had $27,000 from friends, families and different connections," Fred said.
Milton, who is currently studying at Vanderbilt Medical School, said that treating malaria, providing prenatal and postnatal care and delivering antiretroviral drugs for HIV patients are the clinic's most pressing concerns.
Lwala is located in the Nyanza Province, which has one of the highest HIV infection rates in Kenya.
Currently, HIV-positive patients seeking antiretroviral drugs must travel over 40 kilometers at considerable expense to receive treatment.
The clinic, which has completed its first phase of construction, is currently in the process of installing electricity and running water.
In Hanover, the Lwala Development Committee, a group of students, faculty and community members devoted to raising funds, is assisting with the clinic project.
"We need to raise a substantial amount of money, probably $50,000 minimum," said committee chairman Craig Parker, who is also the campus minister for the Navigators Christian Fellowship. "We want to have enough to sustain the clinic for the next few years."
Caitlin Reiner '06, who also serves on the committee, spent last summer in Lwala and other parts of Kenya.
"The stories that I heard from the people in the village made it shockingly clear that this was needed," Reiner said. She is involved primarily in the committee's education arm, which raises money for Lwala area youth to go to high school.
Fred and Milton cited numerous sources of inspiration and support for their project.
They were both involved with the Navigators during their time at Dartmouth, and both said that the spring break service trips that the group organized impacted them significantly. Milton has also met with the celebrated economist Jeffrey Sachs to discuss the project.
The brothers, along with members of the Dartmouth and Vanderbilt communities, will be spend a portion of the summer in Lwala working on the clinic and HIV education initiatives. In the fall, Fred will return to the United States to begin studying at Vanderbilt Medical School.
While it is unclear when the clinic will begin seeing patients, organizers hope that it will open by Jan. 1.
The Ochieng brothers have created a webpage within the Vanderbilt Medical School website containing further information about the Lwala project.