Dedicated to My Father LJ "The Gentleman"
A Man Ahead of His Time!
Life as we know it has changed, uncertainty colors the atmosphere as we all struggle to find a new normal. Social distancing, pockets filled with sanitizers, and the constant washing of hands is what forms our new normal. As I am busy working on formulations in our laboratory, I can not help but think of my father. Lawrence Johnson Nyairo Omwena, commonly called LJ “The Gentleman” or Tata Ominto (Dad in my native Ekegusii language).
My dad was truly a man ahead of his time. Despite hailing from Engorwa, a little unknown village in Kisii highlands, Kenya, East Africa, he espoused unique hygiene behaviours that I am reminded of in our current times.
As the world grapples with solutions to combat the novel Covid-19 pandemic, I can’t help but reminisce the good old times my siblings and I spent with a gentleman I call dad. A man who believed in personal space and actively guarded it! Extremely organized, his clarion call was cleanliness is second to Godliness. He was brilliant a among the crème de la creme, always with a briefcase, a notebook and a pen.
In a culture where personal space was not part of the norm, dad practiced it faithfully. He did not encourage unnecessary physical touch and was particular about who he let into his space. Whenever someone would cross over into his space, I remember he would take a step back. Strange? Not at all.
My dad was a teacher by training, he knew a lot from his conventional training and had a good understanding of nature and social norms. Viruses such as the common cold are airborne and thus can easily be spread through close contact. And wouldn’t you know it - this worked. Dad lived to be almost 90 without ever falling sick!
The current pandemic is a reminder of how invaluable simple actions like hand washing, social distance and staying at home can be.
His Love for Handwashing
Kisii is a highland meaning lots of steep hills. Our house is situated at the top of one of those hills (Engorwa), creating a beautiful 360 view. Growing up, we took turns fetching water at the stream which was at the bottom of the hill. No easy feat, but we did it several times daily. This water would be used for bathing, washing utensils, cleaning the house and doing laundry. For dad, washing hands was part of the manifest! I remember countless times after my siblings, and I had gone to fetch water and we had barely caught our breath when dad would use a large part of the water to wash his hands. No way dad! With time we learned to accommodate his needs and soon took them as our own.
It has been almost a year since he left us and it seems almost ironic that his norms are what governments across the world are pushing to make a part of everyday life. He really was a man ahead of his time. He prepared us for such a time as now. I wish I could ask him why he washed his hands so often. Could he see what was coming?
Innovation + Our Response to the Pandemic
Dad taught us a lot of things, and one of them being solution-oriented. If you went to him with a problem, he would challenge you to find a solution. Often quoting “be the solution not the problem”.
Being a scientist, I felt compelled to join others worldwide to contribute to the solution for this pandemic. I am greatly honoured to launch our all-natural Hand Sanitizer in remembrance of my beloved father LJ “The Gentleman" – A Man ahead of his time.
At Ellie Bianca, we take great pride in being a part of the creativity and innovation that will strengthen the global fight against the Corona Virus. Our Hand Sanitizers meet the international and Health Canada standards of recommended hand-washing agents, containing food-grade 62% ethyl alcohol to effectively kill bacteria and germs and soothing aloe-vera, known for its undisputed ability to calm, soften and moisturize dry skin.
I hope that this product will help keep many safe during these trying times.
Tata Ominto Nyairo (Dad)… This one is for you!
Evelyne Nyairo, M.Sc., P.Biol. and founder of Ellie Bianca
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