Oklahoma, Hope and Solidarity Beyond Limits

by Ricard Torres-MateLuna 

Colleen Holmes our President and CEO and I took a trip to visit Oklahoma, during the visit we had the opportunity to meet with the staff from the Enid and Oklahoma City offices. We also visited some of the locations in Oklahoma City and Guthrie where we met a few of our Employer partners and participants at their place of work. After our arrival we hade the great opportunity to meet with the staff from both office. We went around the table sharing stories and anecdotes and experiences that shaped us. Many of the women in the group shared the common experience of being single mothers, a uniting thread that came out of the stories we were told. Their stories were tales of struggle but admirably full of hope and solidarity to give; and it was truly impressive to see these strong and resolute woman in their roles as mothers and workers making the lives of their participants better every time they interact with them. By the end of our time together, there was no ‘us and them’. In fact, one of the staff pointed out that it felt like we had already known each other for a long time. I had met some of them on video conference during a task force meetings, but they already felt like good friends and colleagues with a great dynamic.

As we were going around the room introducing ourselves, the ‘microphone’ came around to Frederick. When he started to talk, I was immediately struck by his calm and soothing voice. Everyone listened. He said, “My Name is Frederick Oballa,” and then someone interrupted him saying, “tell them that you send all your money to your community in Kenya to help build wells for water and to help children to go to school!” he broke into a big smile. I needed to know more! 

After introductions and our group meeting concluded, I interviewed him, and this is what Frederick had to say:

Tell us about your background. How did you decide to pursue a career in human services at Viability? 

My name is Fredrick Oballa, I was  born in Nairobi, Kenya. I learned how to read and write from a deaf cousin. Additionally the village, where my parents were born, had the AIDS epidemic, which  rendered a lot of children orphans, and impoverished them. Through the grace of God, I was able to travel to America in 2003 on a Soccer Scholarship to the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. While there, I received a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science, Economics and History. I further attended  the University of Central Oklahoma and completed a  Masters Degree in Public Administration. Additionally I have a Diploma in Software Engineering and Cyber Security. 

While I was an undergraduate student, I used to volunteer for the local Paralympic Games and that was how I started working with individuals with developmental disabilities. I became a certified HTS (Habilitation Training Specialist), and MAT (Medical Assistant Technician) in 2005, I acquired certification in Theology because a lot of churches are involved in community work. My passion for the underprivileged led to starting the Hope Fountain Foundation, in 2010. It’s a 501(c3) certified by IRS. I have built an orphanage, a school with a food program for vulnerable members of the upcountry Kenyan society. I continue to train pastors, digging wells for water, etc. Currently I’m working at Viability as a job coach. All my salary goes towards my non-profit work. 

What is your favorite professional memory since working with us? 

I feel like am part of a family here at Viability. We work together in unity and appreciation no matter the situation. 

Please share with us a memory from your childhood? 

I really enjoyed the outdoors, running, playing all kinds of games including soccer, and  going hunting. 

In your free time, what do you enjoy doing? 

Volunteering for different causes, jogging, watching Netflix, coaching, playing and watching  soccer. 

Do you have a question for the next person we interview? 

What would you wish to do different, if you had to start life again?