Try to check out “Sons of Lwala” when it premieres at the 2008 Nashville Film Festival April 17-24. Last night I attended the benefit preview of the film about Milton and Fred Ochieng, two brothers who come to Nashville to study medicine while simultaneously opening the first health clinic in their home village in western Kenya. The brothers were driven to finish the clinic that had been their father’s dream before he and their mother died of AIDS. Milton, in particular, felt compelled to give back ever since villagers sold chickens and cows to raise the $900 needed for his first plane ticket to the United States. “Just don’t forget us,” they told him as they sent him off to pursue his education.
Despite the pressures of medical school, it proved impossible for either brother to forget a home where sick villagers have to walk miles for treatment, children suffer from preventable waterborne illnesses and 20-year-olds are dying of AIDS.
Produced and directed by Barry Simmons, a former TV reporter, the documentary follows two years in the life of the brothers as they struggle to raise money for the clinic on their own. Their goal seems close to impossible until they meet others who are inspired by their quest, including Sen. Bill Frist, the band Jars of Clay and hundreds of their fellow students. Thanks to an outpouring of support, the clinic opened in 2007, and to date, it has served 15,000 patients and spearheaded community health initiatives.
Check out the documentary Web site for a trailer and this link for more information about the brothers’ continuing efforts to support their village.