PLEASANTON, California — When Dan Ogola co-founded the Matibabu Foundation with Dr. Gayle Wagner in 2004, he had one goal in mind: to alleviate poverty through quality healthcare and job creation. The Tiba Foundation works alongside Ogola’s other organization, the Matibabu Foundation, to support over 500,000 Kenyans in the county of Siaya.
Poverty and Poor Health
The Tiba Foundation funds construction projects, offers strategic advice to healthcare personnel, provides doctors, medicine and even medical training to Siayan community members. Both Ogola and Wagner recognized that “Poverty and poor health are inextricably linked,” so they focused on revitalizing the health of rural Kenyan communities.
The organization, Health Poverty Action, explains that “Poverty is both a cause and a consequence of poor health.” In Kenyan communities, overcrowded living conditions, a lack of clean water and improper sanitation contribute to airborne illnesses, like tuberculosis and malaria. These diseases weaken impoverished communities and kill vulnerable members, such as children, women and the elderly.
Poverty also traps Kenyan communities as it prevents people from receiving adequate medical care. Diane Dodge, Tiba’s Executive Director, told The Borgen Project that most Kenyan families make six to 10 dollars a day. If a family member falls ill, doctors’ fees, medications and transportation to health centers can devastate a family’s income. Although the Kenyan government offers a national health insurance policy, Dodge argued that most families cannot afford the $5 monthly premium.
When family members become ill, the “burden of caring” falls on female relatives, especially young girls. As a result, Kenyan women often abandon their education and obtain domestic work to help with household costs. Health Poverty Action confirms that “Missing out on education has long-term implications for a woman’s opportunities later in life and for her own health.” A lack of education further traps Kenyan women in a cycle of poverty.
Several factors contribute to the linkage between poverty and health, including temporary migration to urban areas. Most Kenyan families live in rural regions as part of pastoral societies. However, when a parent or child becomes ill, families face financial setbacks, affecting their social-economic status (SES). A change in SES forces many male and sometimes female family members to migrate for work as farming cannot sustain a sick family unit.
According to Dodge, Ogola experienced this first-hand. After his father died and his brother became permanently disabled from polio, Ogola traveled to Nairobi to increase his family’s income. He hoped to funnel money back to his family, but a workplace injury placed him in Kibera, the world’s largest slum. Within Kibera, Ogola noticed how improper sanitation contributed to the spread of diseases like TB and HIV. While working to rehabilitate this slum, Ogola had an epiphany.
His realization echoed a South African study, which found that “Temporary migration to urban areas functions as a mainstay for income and even the survival of rural communities. However, rural poverty remains a problem.” Ogola believed he could alleviate poverty and prevent migration by improving rural healthcare and creating jobs.
To begin his mission, Ogola founded the Matibabu Foundation in Kenya, which provides free medical care to rural communities. After meeting Dr. Wagner, they discovered they shared a passion for strengthening community capacity and broadening medical services. Wagner assisted Ogola as he founded the Matibabu Foundation, addressing poverty’s roots through healthcare, education and social services.
Dr. Wagner and Ogola then founded the Tiba Foundation in 2004, basing its efforts in the U.S. to support the allocation of international funds for the Matibabu Foundation and technical support in the form of volunteer surgeons, doctors, nurses and researchers. “Tiba,” which means “healing,” comes from the heart of the word “Matibabu.” “It clearly expresses our mission,” Dodge told The Borgen Project. “Supporting Kenyan communities rests at the heart of our organization. We are working with Ogola to eliminate poverty and improve healthcare services.”
The Tiba Foundation addresses poverty and revitalizes healthcare in a number of ways.
Building a Self-Sustainable Hospital
The Tiba Foundation worked with the Matibabu Foundation to raise funding for its hospital operations. Before Ogola’s foundations, Dodge explained that the county of Siaya lacked a functioning hospital and people traveled great distances to visit doctors. Now, people can remain within their rural communities, receive emergency medical care, engage in family planning and have surgeries. This hospital also detects illnesses early, saving families money and preventing more expensive treatments in the future.
The Tiba Foundation also hopes to help the Matibabu Foundation pilot telemedicine or the electronic distribution of medical services. Telemedicine can improve healthcare in rural areas and reduce the need for rural patients to travel to receive medical consultations or advice. Dodge states that the hospital and telemedicine program will provide free services, strengthening rural communities and counteracting poverty’s effects.
Funding the Lifunga School for Girls
Alongside the hospital, Ogola and Wagner focused on empowering young girls to escape poverty and join the workforce. According to Dodge, Ogola understood the valuable role women played as caregivers; however, he wanted to remove them from the domestic space by offering them educational and vocational opportunities.
While these girls improve their literacy, gain leadership skills and practice entrepreneurship, the Lifunga School for Girls also offers young girls health education. Many of these young girls lost their parents to HIV, so learning about their reproductive health is essential to their survival.
Many families cannot afford to send their girls to school, so both the Matibabu and Tiba Foundations cover the cost of admission and required uniforms. The Tiba Foundation also covered girls’ healthcare while they studied at the Lifunga School for Girls. Dodge explained the essential role girls’ education plays in poverty reduction: “If a young woman is empowered, her family and community will move forward.”
Founding the Matibabu College of Health Sciences
To decrease urban migration, Ogola focused on creating healthcare jobs for young men and women in the region. With help from the Tiba Foundation, Ogola constructed his Matibabu College of Health Sciences, which trains aspiring medical professionals in nursing and specialties like surgery. Additionally, women at the Lifunga School for Girls who apply and qualify for Matibabu College’s programs receive a full scholarship.
By training young people to become nurses, Ogola improves the health of rural communities. So far, 100% of the nursing college students passed their national exams and returned to their rural families. After working with the Matibabu Foundation, they now contribute valuable medical knowledge to their families and neighbors. These nurses improve healthcare from the inside out by teaching proper sanitation and working in the local hospital.
The Tiba Foundation seeks to counteract poverty by developing educational programs and building healthcare facilities. With each new program, this organization renews Ogola’s mission by uplifting women, covering medical bills, refining their hospital and certifying future nurses. Through their efforts, the Tiba Foundation serves as a model for other nonprofits as it upholds healthcare for every human being.
– Kyler Juarez