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Published: June 2, 2022

A son of Lwala, driving people and driving change

Samwel “Onyango” Ogada has worked for Lwala Community Alliance since 2012. Born and raised in the village of Lwala, Onyango grew up a short walk from where our hospital now sits. For the first half of his life, before the hospital existed, Onyango experienced first-hand what life was like without access to health care.

As a young boy in the village, Onyango knew the Ochieng’ family–he looked up to Milton and Fred, the brothers who founded Lwala Community Alliance as a tribute to their father’s dream. Onyango’s parents and grandparents took part in the community groundswell effort to send both Ochieng’ brothers to the US for college. Little did he know that the chickens sold by his own family to support the Ochieng’ brothers’ paths to medical school would seed a thriving hospital and a successful community-led health model, reaching far beyond the village where it began.

“We come from the same village–everyone around here knows Onyango, his grandparents, his family. Onyango is a role model to many people in Lwala– kids, teenagers, adults–they want to achieve what he has achieved.”
– Steve Okong’o, Program Coordinator, Maternal and Child Health

Onyango dropped out of high school because his parents simply couldn’t continue to pay the school fees. “What can I do?” he remembers asking himself. Onyango moved to Nairobi to pursue driving as a career but realized it was difficult to earn enough as a driver in a big city. When he moved back to his home village, he secured a job as a driver for Lwala Community Hospital.

Every day on the job is different, and between his regular driving duties, Onyango steps in to help in other ways– landscaping on the hospital grounds, performing maintenance tasks, organizing storage spaces, and hosting high-profile government officials and other visitors. He’s always ready, at a moment’s notice, to drive the ambulance if needed.

During his 10 years at Lwala, the organization has supported him to take courses, including in first aid and ambulance operation, which better equip him for special circumstances on the job. Onyango’s curious nature means that he’s always asking questions, taking in every opportunity to listen and learn. He’s exceptional at handling every kind of passenger–medical staff, first-time visitors, patients, and of course, women in labor.

“I use my torch to help others,” Onyango says, sharing a recent story of driving back to the hospital late one night in the ambulance. He saw a woman on the road, clearly having labor pains.

“I was already trained–I put on gloves and a gown, got out to examine her, and confirmed she was at the final stage of labor. I was alone in this endeavor, but I was not scared. I delivered the baby, clamped the cord, and wrapped the baby up. Then I removed the cord and the placenta, and I helped the mother and baby into the ambulance. We drove to the nearest hospital from there. In that moment, I was so thankful that I ask questions of nurses and doctors whenever I have the chance.”

Onyango dreams of training to become a nurse’s aide at the hospital. “I consider Lwala a blessing. It is a privilege to be here, to support my wife and two young boys while also supporting my community.”

"I’m proud to connect with so many people–I consider anyone who enters my vehicle and shares a story with me to be a friend.”
- Samwel Onyango Ogada



Agency, health, and wholeness of life.

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