Doctor’s charity work recognised

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A doctor who fled war-torn Uganda to settle in Linlithgow has been honoured for his services to charity.

David Olwa, who founded the Association of Serving the Humanity International (ASHI), was given the Jim Riddell Memorial Trophy in recognition of 40 years’ work in Africa and West Lothian.

ASHI was formed by Dr Olwa in 2010, but his dedicated work in medicine stretches back to the 1971 military coup d’état in Uganda, which saw Idi Amin seize power and led to a tremendous loss of life and severe destruction of livelihood.

His family suffered during this turmoil, but as a young man he had already decided to put his medical expertise to use in helping those overwhelmed by hardship.

Settling and marrying in Linlithgow shortly after the crisis in Uganda, Dr Olwa quickly established himself as a respected charity activist in West Lothian.

But his commitment to Uganda continued, returning with his wife to assess hospitals in their home town of Lira.

To both Dr Olwa and his equally hard-working wife, Dorothy, it was clear that the country lacked even the most basic of medical facilities.

As well as sending medical apparatus to Africa, Dr Olwa embarked on the training of staff who adapted the equipment for local use. In doing so, he contributed greatly to the development of medical science in poverty-stricken areas.

His work also generated far greater awareness of the need for medical treatment in developing communities.

On his return to Scotland, Dr Olwa presented evidence of appalling conditions in Uganda to NHS Lothian, persuading bosses to donate surplus equipment to those most in need in Lira.

Dr Olwa wrote to hospitals across Scotland, sharing his ambition that the needs of the Liran community be yet further recognised.

The result was donations of equipment from numerous Scottish hospitals being provided to those in Uganda.

This aid included 5000 pairs of old spectacles collected via a public appeal, in the co-ordination of which he played a vital role.

Letters were then sent by Dr Olwa and his wife to opticians in Linlithgow asking for more donations.

St John’s Hospital in Livingston proved pivotal in maximising the appeal by asking parents to donate old spectacles to the Lira Eye Department.

Although now retired, Dr Olwa and Dorothy persist in their efforts to aid poverty-stricken victims facing a turbulent fallout from Uganda’s war-torn past.

Heavily active in the voluntary sector, Dr Olwa is an admired contributor to the work of the Voluntary Sector Gateway, West Lothian, with whom he set up ASHI in 2010.