Dubbed “Caravan of Hope” by Transport and Communications Minister Musalia Mudavadi while flagging off
the train from Nairobi Railway Station on 12 June 2002, the Kisumu Caravan travelled to Nakuru, Molo, Muhoroni, Kipkelion, Kisumu and Vihiga, treating needy Kenyans free of charge in a landmark private sector initiative spearheaded by Avenue Healthcare. Assisted by volunteers from several of the Caravan's sponsors, Lions
Clubs, Roundtables, and a number of Government Health Officials, the 80 strong Caravan Team treated 9,541 people in six free health camps held over a four day period.
The idea was hatched in the year 2000, when Avenue organised the "March to Mombasa”, a series of free
health camps held at Makindu, Voi, Changamwe, Mtongwe and Kisauni. That year, attempts to cut through the Kenya Railways bureaucracy were unsuccessful, and the team of 56 Avenue staff travelled by bus, car and ambulance, treating nearly 4000 Kenyans with support from several pharmaceuticals firms and other sponsors.
In the year 2002, however, the Railways bureaucracy had changed. Kenya Railways new managing director,
Mr. Andrew Wanyandeh, moved rapidly to action from the first day the Kisumu Caravan idea was informally presented to him. Mr. Wanyandeh spread his vision and organisational savvy to the entire Caravan team,
and made possible a far more ambitious and well funded project than had originally been planned. With
its wholehearted support from planning stages to implementation, the Railways team showed itself to be professional, dedicated, and a shining example of corporate responsibility to the community.
Along with provision of a nine carriage train, 18 Kenya Railways staff joined the Caravan, with Mr. Jasiel Njue, General Manager Technical, firmly in charge. Supported by Kisumu Caravan Train Captain, Mrs. T. Masha
Namoya, the station masters and their staff, the event was a truly memorable experience for all who participated. Not only did the trains run strictly on time, but visitors to the stations found them clean, freshly painted and well lit for the first time in many years.
Like the March to Mombasa, the Kisumu Caravan was successful because of donor confidence that donations would reach the needy. Having worked with Avenue Healthcare in the March to Mombasa, GlaxoSmithKline's
Dr. Githinji Gitahi presented the Caravan idea to Panadol Manager Maureen Miringu and GSK General Manager Linus Gitahi, who promptly came on board with an incredible donation of Kshs.1.5 million in drugs, T-shirts,
and much needed cash. Seventy-five local companies gave generous support in the form of drugs, cash, food
and supplies worth approximately 7.5 million shillings, with Avenue Healthcare donating medical, organizational, ambulance and support services to the Caravan. Led by a strong management team consisting of Dr. Amit Thakker, Diana Patel, Etta Ligale-Muriuki, Dr. Peter Kamunyo and Raju Batavia, Avenue Healthcare staff worked seven days a week to put the monumental effort together in a mere two months time.The many drugs and
supplies remaining after the camps were donated to nearby health centres with the provision that they be dispensed to the needy free of charge. Institutions benefiting from the donations were Matumaini Rehabilitation Centre in Molo, Molo District Hospital, Kipkelion Health Centre, Muhoroni Health Centre, Vihiga High School, Mbale District Hospital, Jera Health Centre in Siaya District and Mother Theresa’ Home, Otiende.