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  1. The Rev. Joseph Oloimooja (left) helps a resident of Eluanata Village, Kenya, install a new well to provide fresh, clean drinking water to the residents.
  1. Slide 1

“I Learned a lot from KP about the Importance of Giving Back to My Community”

2015 David Lawrence Community Service Award Finalist

Rev. Joseph Oloimooja is one of two finalists for the 2015 annual David Lawrence Community Service Award for the Southern California region. This award recognizes individuals and teams at Kaiser Permanente who champion outstanding activities and initiatives to positively impact health, whether it is in their local communities or abroad. They embody Kaiser Permanente’s mission to improve community health and they are committed to important health and social issues, such as increasing access to health care for the underserved, eliminating disparities in health outcomes of racial and ethnic minorities, addressing the social determinants of health, and being strong stewards of our natural resources.

To recognize their amazing work and dedication to giving back, David Lawrence Community Service Award winners receive a $10,000 grant to a nonprofit of their choosing, which is funded by Kaiser Permanente’s national Community Benefit. 

Reverend Joseph Oloimooja, spiritual care manager, Kaiser Permanente South Bay Medical Center

We’re experiencing a major drought in Southern California, but it is a minor inconvenience when compared to the disease and hardships brought about by the shortage of clean drinking water in Eluanata Village, Kenya. Even in a drought, Southern Californians have access to safe, potable water to drink, clean, cook, and water our crops.

Unlike the families in Kenya, we don’t have to be concerned about our young women walking 10 miles round trip through the desert with heavy pots of water balanced on their heads. We don’t share our water with wild animals, or worry about raw sewage and trash contaminating the water supply. We don’t experience the horrors of one out of every five of our children under the age of five dying due to water-related diseases.

The Rev. Joseph Oloimooja, spiritual care manager at Kaiser Permanente’s South Bay Medical Center, is well aware of the toll the lack of clean water has taken on this small village. That is why he is committed to improving the health and saving the lives of the residents of his native village

Elunata Village sits on the border of Kenya and Tanzania in East Africa in a very dry, remote area. Because there is a lack of clean water in Africa, water-borne and water based diseases are a primary cause of preventable illnesses and premature deaths, with children being particularly vulnerable. Waterborne diarrheal diseases are a serious health concern. They can lead to decreased food intake and nutrient absorption, malnutrition, reduced resistance to infection, and impaired physical growth and cognitive development. Factors contributing to this high rate of diarrheal disease incidence include poor sanitation, poor hand hygiene, contaminated water, and lack of sufficient household water. The dirty, nonpotable water was literally killing the children of Eleunata.

Oloimooja immigrated to the United States 15 years ago, but he was never able to forget his people back in the village. “I couldn’t just ignore the cry of my fellow villagers when they keep calling me for help,” says Oloimooja. “I learned a lot from Kaiser Permanente about the importance of giving back to my community. I took it to the street, wrote a book and donated 100 percent of the proceeds to build a well of clean water for my village and have saved a lot of lives.”

He adds: “I learned from this experience and I am inspired more than ever before to putting efforts together to go back again in the near future… [to] build a clinic and save many more lives that are being lost due to treatable diseases, like malaria, typhoid, and cholera.”

Oloimooja committed to solving this problem by commissioning a well for the village. He raised money by writing, self-publishing, and selling his autobiography, “Angels Walk Among Us.” Oloimooja sold copies of his book from the back of his truck on weekends for three and a half years to raise enough money to build the well. 

After five years, Oloimooja’s book raised enough money to drill a 720-foot well operated by a solar power system.  Water engineers and specialists in Nairobi estimate that the well will service the community with clean water for 100 years with regular, proper maintenance.

Once the community of Eluanata began drinking clean water from their new well, the death rate was reduced dramatically. As of July 2015, not one death due to drinking contaminated water has been reported. Additionally, more than 4,800 people were positively affected, including those from neighboring villages. The local water is now the main source of cultivation of vegetable crops. It is also providing a source of revenue that is being used to increase the quality of life in the village, including education, medical care, and healthy eating.

Thanks to Oloimooja and his selfless efforts to raise funds and give back to his village, the residents can live healthier, happier, and longer lives.