Dr. Hezron Mc’Obewa had finally returned to his home village near Kisumu, on the edge of Lake Victoria, Kenya in November 2007. Shortly after, violence erupted in the country following the disputed December 27th elections.
|Hezron in 1999 with the Science Gold medal awarded at Victoria College, standing with Mr. Robert Perchard, chairman of the Jersey Charitable Trust for Commonwealth Students that raised the money for Hezron’s medical course|
He coordinated a number of agencies in his area to bring relief to those fleeing the violence and medical help to casualties. What a homecoming for this young man but one he tackled with his usual energy and skill.
Hezron was born in the village of Ombeyi in 1976. A Scottish missionary encouraged him through primary school and so he added the Mc’ (son of) to his family name Obewa and after excellent results he won a coveted place at Starehe School in Nairobi for secondary education. His time there was sponsored by a man from the beautiful island of Jersey, Mr. Peter Gibaut, who also paid for a trip to Jersey after his O levels.
Determined to become a doctor, Hezron studied A level Sciences at Victoria College, winning the Queen’s gold medal for Science in 1998. Friends in Jersey caught his vision and raised the funds needed, up to £100,000 (sterling), to pay for his five year medical course at Nottingham University in the East Midlands of England.
In the third year of his course, Hezron did an elective study on the effects of AIDS in his home area and found there were many desperate orphans. He set up the OGRA Foundation with friends at home, supplying a midday meal to 24 of them. He also inspired friends in Jersey to support these orphans through a Jersey based charity called Wanangwe School and Orphanage Trust, now shortened to WASOT-UK.
|Ed Le Quesne with clinic staff in 2005|
I learned of this man’s extraordinary story during a recent visit to Jersey, which is off the British and French coasts, when I met up with Ed Le Quesne and learned from him that in 2001, he had retired from teaching Physics at Victoria College.
He had taught Hezron and told me that he was pleased to become chairman of WASOT-UK. He took a trip to Kenya in 2002, joining Hezron and 20 medical students from Nottingham University, who were starting to convert a hotel into a hospital. OGRA were now assisting over 200 orphans, by supporting them in foster homes.
Fund raising in Jersey and grants from Jersey’s Overseas Aid Commission, enabled the Wanangwe School to be rebuilt and Port Florence Community Hospital to open with free places for orphans and some fee-paying patients.
|2007 photo of Hezron with his mother, a great supporter of his work. She died in October 2008|
“Hezron graduated from Nottingham in 2003 and he worked as a junior doctor at Derby General Hospital taking further six month courses in a range of medical areas. All of his vacation time was spent back in Kenya, overseeing the work of OGRA and planning a clinic in his home village,” said Ed.
“I joined him again in 2005 and was glad to see the clinic in action and a range of training activities in place for young orphans to earn their living and support younger siblings.
“In August 2007, a team of 12 from Jersey raised funds to pay for the materials then undertook a 4 week trip to Kenya to help with building a staff accommodation block for the clinic. They were also shown the home-care system that OGRA had developed to help AIDS victims.
“Hezron was there with us and had the vision to buy a large building in a quiet part of Kisumu that could be converted into a hotel. A year of hard work by OGRA staff led to the opening of Le Savanna Country Lodge in December 2008. The profits from the hotel are helping to support other OGRA activities as well as using chickens, maize etc grown by widows and orphans groups.”
With Hezron back in Kenya and settled again after the violence OGRA was used as a base for medical research undertaken by Professor Douglas Perkins of New Mexico University in the United States.
|Local people waiting to receive insecticide treated nets after OGRA received a grant from The Rotary Foundation towards their local malaria campaign|
“It also got much support from Direct Relief International in California so that it can now provide the drugs and follow-up care for over 1000 AIDS patients,” said Ed Le Quesne. “It continues to host work parties of students from medical schools in England, who carry out building projects and also gain some experience of tropical medicine.
“With financial support from the Guernsey Overseas Aid Commission it has built further outreach clinics, supplied mosquito nets, provided TB treatments and other useful projects.”
Ed Le Quesne went on to say, “In the aftermath of the violence at the start of 2008, a training college, the International School of Medicine and Technology, was set up, initially using both the teachers and students forced to flee back to Kisumu from ethnic violence. Now ISMAT is providing a range of courses, helping young Kenyans to serve their community.
|Cover of the new book|
“Pharmaceutical giant, GSK has sponsored several of their young employees on 3 month placements with OGRA. They have brought a range of skills to share with OGRA and they have also enjoyed the experience of living just 50 miles from Kegelo, the birthplace of Barack Obama’s father.
“OGRA Foundation now has over 100 employees helping Hezron to ‘Give hope, save lives’ in his home area. The faith that many people in Jersey and elsewhere had in the vision and energy of this young man has fully justified the money that they have invested in his medical training and the projects undertaken by OGRA Foundation.”
To learn more, please go to: www.ografoundation.org
Note: A fuller account of this remarkable story has been written recently by Ed Le Quesne. Called “Hezron’s story” it is available for a donation of £7 (sterling) made out to WASOT-UK. You can contact the the author at email@example.com
More about Ed Le Quesne
He was born in Jersey in 1942, while the Germans occupied the Island. He went to Victoria College, then to Trinity College, Cambridge. He spent five years teaching Physics at Thika High School in Kenya from 1967 to 1972 and later spent 28 years as Head of Science at Victoria College. Now retired, he continues as a Methodist local preacher and says he “has enjoyed supporting Hezron by fund-raising and sharing news of his work through an e-mail list.” He is also Chairman of Christian Aid in Jersey after many years as chairman of Oxfam.