An Interview with Hillary Omala, Former CFK Executive Director and Current Board Member August 10, 2016 by Nick Johnson
Hillary Omala favors pursuits that keep him on his toes. Even when things are going well, the former CFK executive director—now a member of the board in Kenya—appreciates new challenges to work through and new perspectives to learn from. “Sometimes I look at each role I’ve had as a different time period,” he explains. “If you’re able to perform your job competently, you may have little motivation to improve or update your skills regularly. There’s a tendency to settle into predictable routines. Skill-sets keep evolving, and you need to find space to either practice or expand those skills.”
In late 2014, Hillary did just that, wrapping up his 3-year tenure as Carolina for Kibera’s Kenya-based executive director. Before that, he worked with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as the manager of the Tabitha Medical Clinic for 4 years. “The time was ripe for a new challenge. Broad-based knowledge across diverse sectors positioned me well for a new experience in the education sector.” He adds, later, “CFK put me at the forefront of diverse initiatives that delivered incredible solutions to challenges facing communities in urban slums. The Kibera community has seen and seized the opportunity to develop new knowledge that promises new horizons.” CFK is lucky to have him and his talents as part of our leadership and advisory teams. After all, he did tremendous work shaping CFK into the organization it is today, especially in regards to our health education and disease prevention initiatives, run in partnership with Ronald McDonald House Charities and carried out by Community Health Volunteers (CHVs). He also diversified services—including cervical cancer treatment and prevention—at the clinic.
Now, Hillary is hard at work with two new ventures. He is the executive director at Kakenya Center for Excellence, a Kenya-based nonprofit that seeks to empower and motivate young girls through education to change their communities and harmful cultural practices they face, such as female genital mutilation and early marriage. “For someone who has a lovely daughter,” he confesses, “I’m more attracted to programs that improve girls’ lives.” Right now, he’s excited to be a part of an organization that is actively creating more opportunities for girls, his daughter included, to advocate for their rights. “At Kakenya, we’re building a platform that empowers girls to participate in development in all levels.” This includes every field, from for-profit businesses and non-profits to artistic and political endeavors. “In Kenya, as in many parts of the world, women are underrepresented in most positions of power due to many barriers such as access to education and health,” Hillary adds.
As if leading an organization like Kakenya wasn’t enough already, Hillary has begun his own health consulting company. Through Enai Group, he is advising health practitioners, companies, and nonprofits on how health education and treatment intersects with environmental sustainability. “There are many aspects of the healthcare industry that are often changing,” he explains, “including health-seeking behaviors, ability and willingness to pay among clients, and emerging infections, among others. Enai Group creates a platform that helps healthcare agencies deliver better value for clients, while also activating the link between environmental sustainability and health.”
Hillary carries lessons learned through CFK with him in his role as a board member, although sometimes the distance that must be maintained is hard to manage. “Figuring out my relationships with staff members has been hardest so far.” When asked to elaborate, he says, “I was their colleague, but now I’m in an oversight role, which means less direct involvement. For many of these programs, I was involved in their design, expansion, and progress. I am very excited to see where they take the work, and at the same time, it’s hard not to be somewhat protective.”
His discerning approach will help CFK choose the path forward wisely so we can have the greatest impact. “Having one executive director is a huge opportunity to figure out a new strategy for the next 5 years.” And the thing Hillary anticipates most? “Taking our experience working in a complex environment like Kibera and helping others who work in similar contexts around the world. That keeps me really excited.” We’re excited too for a different reason—that Hillary, with his expertise in health systems and institutional memory of CFK, has joined as a director on our board for the years to come.