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Xavier Magazine | November 21, 2017

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Profile: Patrick Odongo

Profile: Patrick Odongo
By France Griggs Sloat

PATRICK ODONGO
Bachelor of Psychology, 2005
Family service coordinator, Pressley Ridge
Hamilton, Ohio

The Pastor | In 1999, Odongo was translating Swahili for Dave Lemkuhl, a Cincinnati pastor working in Kenya. Lemkuhl introduced Odongo to Bill Krumpe, a fellow pastor and a friend of former Xavier President James Hoff, S.J. Krumpe spotted a potential Xavier student in the young Kenyan.

St. Patrick’s Day | After Krumpe left, a St. Patrick’s Day card arrived from the priest. Odongo proudly showed it to his friends saying, “Look at this card. It’s just for me.” Lemkuhl broke the news that it was really for the annual Irish festival. Odongo laughed at his mistake, but he wrote back to Krumpe about his desire to study in the United States. Next thing he knew, Hoff was offering him a full-ride scholarship to Xavier.

Near Miss | Odongo’s Xavier education almost slipped away when Krumpe died of a brain tumor one month before Odongo was to leave Kenya. Krumpe’s church could not supply the lodging and financial support he’d promised. Lemkuhl stepped in, however, and found Odongo a place to stay with a Xavier family.

Coming to America | Odongo arrived in Cincinnati in December wearing sandals. “It was not good,” he says. His host family met him at the airport with a pair of socks and a fleece jacket 25 hours after he’d left Nairobi. He thought it strange to see the father cooking that night, and stranger still to see the snow on his windowsill. Xavier eventually found him student housing.

Life in Sega | Life in America was far different than it had been for him as a boy. His seven siblings and parents lived in a one-bedroom house on a farm, and going to sleep at night was a matter of finding a spot on the bed. It was rowdy at times, but fun despite the poverty.

New View | One summer he lived in Over-the-Rhine, the impoverished neighborhood near downtown, with three Xavier students. “I learned the different side of America. The poverty. Back home we are materially poor, but we have a family. The people in Over-the-Rhine are so dysfunctional, without hope. I’m poor, but I have a piece of land at home where I know I will be buried.”

Grateful | Odongo earned his degree in psychology and is using it to counsel troubled children and families. He wants to show his gratitude to Krumpe and Hoff for his education by coordinating the construction of a library for the elementary school and high school in his hometown of Sega, Kenya. A University of Cincinnati architecture student is designing the library building as her senior project, and the Sega school donated the land.

The Gift | “I want to dedicate the library to Fr. Krumpe because he changed my life. It’s amazing how someone can touch your life and then disappear like that. I keep wondering who is this guy who touched my life? If he saw me today, how would I thank him? This is my gift to him.” Odongo’s web site is at www.ugaliyouth.org.

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