March 9, 2007

Event to benefit VUSM students’ clinics in Kenya

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Vanderbilt medical student Milton Ochieng' stands in front of one of the three health clinic buildings in his village in Lwala, Kenya.

Event to benefit VUSM students’ clinics in Kenya

A team of villagers dredges sand from a nearby river to make the clinic foundation.

A team of villagers dredges sand from a nearby river to make the clinic foundation.

Proceeds from the Lwala Benefit Gala on March 29 will help two Vanderbilt School of Medicine students from Kenya open their village's first health clinic later this spring.

The event, which will feature live music and a fashion show, will be held in Vanderbilt's Student Life Center.

Third-year medical student Milton Ochieng' and his younger brother Fred, a first-year student, are seeking funds to equip and staff the Lwala Health Clinic, named for their village, which is more than 25 miles from the nearest district hospital.

“Sometimes I do feel overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of all this,” said Ochieng' — whose last name is apostrophized in his native language. “I think the realization that it's making such a difference in peoples' lives, that's really what keeps me going.”

The Lwala Benefit Gala will begin at 7 p.m. in the Student Life Center Ballroom. Tickets are $16 and can be purchased at the Sarratt Box Office.

Sponsored by the undergraduate student organization, Students For Kenya, the benefit will also feature a silent auction. Students will model clothing created especially for the benefit by New York fashion designer T.S. Dixin, and there will be a premiere screening of the documentary “Journey to Lwala,” about college students who are helping to get the clinic open.

“The Lwala Benefit Gala will be a great opportunity for the Vanderbilt community to learn more about the situation in Lwala and how students are getting involved,” said Dani Buscariollo, president of Students for Kenya. “Also, by participating in this event we are all taking action to improve conditions in an area of the world that will benefit greatly from our help.”

The clinic project, which was featured in the summer 2006 issue of Vanderbilt University Medical Center's research magazine, Lens, will benefit more than 40,000 people in Lwala and the surrounding area.

While the clinic has already been constructed, approximately $100,000 per year is needed to pay for medical supplies, drugs and staff. Interviews for a clinical officer and other staff are currently under way, and the clinic is scheduled to open in early April.

This summer, Vanderbilt alumna Abbie Foust will be leading three Vanderbilt students to work in the clinic as well as on projects such as protecting water springs and teaching primary school students. The Office of Active Citizenship and Service is sponsoring the trip.

For more information and for a list of co-sponsors of the event, contact Buscariollo at