To know the story of how Monica Adhiambo Otieno and her son Moses Omondi both came to work with Lwala Community Alliance is to truly understand the ripple effect of Lwala’s work in the community. Walking with Moses around the village’s perimeter, he points out the thick bush that laboring moms used to walk through to get to the nearest health facility hours away. Moses describes what it was like to grow up in a village with no access to health care: “It was very common for babies to die, and other community members too,” he recalls. “In one week’s time, you would hear mourning from two funerals.” When health care isn’t accessible, and families are losing loved ones at that rate, the consciousness of the entire village is affected.
Monica, Moses’ mother, grew up in a large family, and her education took a backseat to other priorities. She left school after sixth grade, and eventually moved to the village of Lwala where she married. After having three children, Monica made a life-changing decision–to return to school. The strength of her marriage to Moses’ father earned his support, and she enrolled in Lwala Primary School.
“My mother’s struggles and triumphs have helped me gain more focus, determination, and patience. She inspired me to also pursue a career in the health care field. I know that she endured a lot, but seeing that she prevailed gives me hope. I too hope to blaze my own trail as the first member of our family to go to college.”
- Moses Omondi
Entering 7th grade as a 32-year-old–and wearing the same uniform as her own son just two grades behind her–made her a spectacle and subject to taunting. This was exacerbated a year later, when she became pregnant with Moses’ little sister, Olivia, who was born with sickle-cell disease. Despite all of these challenges, Monica persevered, earned her diploma, and went on to become a community health worker (CHW), where she works with Lwala to provide health services to her community.
As a caretaker for Olivia, Moses often took her to Lwala Community Hospital for sickle cell treatment. Haunted by the all-too-common mourning cries of his own youth, he was determined for his sister to have better health care. Now 13 years of age, Olivia is a thriving teenager. Inspired by this experience and by his mother, he began working with Lwala in 2015–first as a volunteer and then as a public health intern. During the COVID-19 response, Moses helped conduct screenings at Lwala Community Hospital, ensuring that patients could continue to access health care in the midst of the pandemic. Today, Moses is a program assistant with Lwala’s Mothers & Children program, which supports CHW training and service delivery–a fitting role for the son of a CHW.
"Moses is dedicated to work assigned to him and always ready to help others in areas that he is strong in. Moses is someone you only need to give a hint on how to do something and he will do it to the end and is always happy to consult when he is not sure of something."
- Steve Okong'o
Moses knows better than anyone the importance of a strong community health system: “You can’t just build a health facility,” he says. “You have to build a road, stock the commodities, find the staff, deploy the CHWs, sustain the resources. Lwala helps pull the levers at the systems level.” And as someone who remembers a time before Lwala, he thinks a lot about the legacy of the organization. “Lwala is truly one of a kind, with the community at the center and colleagues who support me to bring forth new ideas. Together, we are ensuring the wholeness of life for all the people we love.”