Habil Ogola is a medical technologist, pastor, and caretaker of 60 abandoned orphans and elders on the Nyakatch Plateau in western Kenya. The community is called "Bethlehem Home." Honors College students have joined Dr. Lisa Baker (Honors Program faculty) and friends across the United States in planning ways to move beyond the current public health crisis into long-term sustainability for this Kenyan community of destitute but willing workers.
The planning encompasses:
The first effort to move beyond the crisis has been to market beautiful "fair trade" baskets, which the elders of Pastor Ogola's community make by hand. With this partnership, they are turning "straw to bread."
These environmental and medical projects have served as an impetus for student-led research in contaminated groundwater sources, agricultural co-ops and sustainability, female health education, and more. For the fourth year in a row, these topics are the foci of several University Scholar/Honors Program students' senior theses. Graduating seniors, as well as students already enrolled in medical and graduate schools, have committed to continuing their research efforts and returning to Bethlehem Home to see this community's vision of sustainability through to the end.
Jae Kim, Summer 2011 & 2012
"On a cloudy evening, a group of us went to a local school to teach its students about reproductive health issues, primarily the effects of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and the means by which they can prevent and minimize their exposure to HIV," recalls Jae Kim. "A student asked, 'Can a mzungu (foreigner, white person) get HIV as well?' All the snickers and smiles faded away immediately. All the eyes in the classroom were focused on me and everyone was waiting for my reply. My smile faded as well. So this was the problem. I had feared wrongly. The students did not hate the mzungu; it was the opposite. The students were led by their circumstances and others to believe that the mzungu were somehow superior, even genetically, to the Kenyans, and that we were impervious to the problems and the pain that they faced...(Read more)
Elizabeth Uhlig, Summer 2012
"How can you survive two weeks in Africa without your luggage?" asks Elizabeth Uhlig. "There's really no secret to it. You just do, when it happens to you. So during those two weeks, I lived on my backpack that I carried on the plane, $15 of essentials I got at the Nakumatt (the Kenyan Walmart), and the generosity of my teammates. But there was no way I could complain on a mission trip in Africa. The monetary value of what I had in my backpack probably totaled more than most of those families had to their names..."(Read more)