In the eyes of his coworkers at InterContinental Doha The City, Hezron Jeremiah Onyango is an unsung hero.
In the aftermath of last year’s devastating typhoon in the Philippines, the 24-year-old Kenyan expat quietly donated his entire month’s salary to a fundraiser to support the families of the hotel’s employees directly affected by the disaster.
Onyango, a laundry attendant, said he was motivated to help due to his own good fortune in life, namely leaving a troubled Nairobi neighborhood and landing work with an international hotel chain in Qatar.
“I’ve been through hardships and some situations. I needed to do something for my Filipino colleagues,” he told Doha News, after his employer recently shared his story with the media.
For Onyango, who arrived to Qatar in May 2012, each workday comes with a fair degree of routine. He picks up clothes from hotel guests, cleans and irons the garments and exchanges laughter and conversation with his coworkers.
But almost exactly one year ago, Onyango sensed something had changed. One of his normally upbeat colleagues in the laundry department, a man from the Philippines, appeared particularly dour.
“That day was totally different … The expression on his face was frustration and worry,” he recalled.
On Nov. 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan – one of the strongest cyclones ever recorded – struck the Philippines. More than 7,000 people were killed or went missing in its wake, while thousands more were injured or left homeless.
Many friends and family members of Filipino expats living in Qatar were affected by the storm, leading the country to declare a day of solidarity and sparking several local fundraising efforts.
At the InterContinental, workers were given the option to donate a portion of their monthly salary to help eight hotel employees whose families in the Philippines were directly affected.
When Onyango received the donation form, he quietly pledged QR1,150 (US$316) – his entire pay check.
His payroll supervisor, Hannah Zeta, thought Onyango had made a mistake. After checking with him and confirming the amount, Zeta said she was inspired to increase her own donation.
“I was really moved by his initiative … He’s not directly affected by the typhoon or from (the Philippines), but he felt he had to help,” she said.
In an interview with Doha News at the hotel this week, Onyango explained that he was raised in a Nairobi neighborhood rife with drugs, vandalism and gangs.
He managed to find work at a hotel in Kenya, the Diani Reef Hotel in Mombasa, before passing his resume on to a friend and landing a job at the InterContinental in Qatar two years ago.
He said he considers himself lucky, and felt it was necessary to share his good fortunes with his coworkers affected by the typhoon.
“Whenever you come out of that neighborhood, it’s a positive,” he said. Reflecting on his past and his coworkers’ plight, he said he felt he “just had to (make the donation) for the community.”
While Onyango didn’t tell anyone about his donation, word eventually spread through the hotel.
Kien Arriesgadu is a bellboy at the InterContinental whose family’s home in the Philippine province of Cebu was partially destroyed. Thanks in part to the donations from Onyango and other co-workers, his family is in the process of rebuilding their house.
“Hezron has a huge heart,” Arriesgadu said. “I’m a very thankful to have him as a friend and a colleague. I wish I could say thank you every day for what he’s done for us.”
Late last year, the hotel honored Onyango with its Unsung Hero award for his generosity, positive attitude, strong character and hardworking nature.
“Hezron is the epitome of an unsung hero as he is continually looking for ways to help people yet never calling attention to his good deeds. In fact, we would have never even known about his generous donation if the accounts team hadn’t alerted us,” said hotel general manager Pascal Eggerstedt in a statement.
Late last month, Onyango spent a night in Dubai for the first time and attended the Hotelier Middle East Awards with several colleagues. He was awarded the runner-up award in the Unsung Hero category and was sought out by several executives from the InterContinental Hotels Group who wanted to meet him in person.
Now that he’s back in Doha, Onyango has returned to his regular routine in the laundry department with his normally upbeat outlook.
“I always come to work happy … I’m just happy working here, and happy to be in Qatar.”
A true hero. I take my hat off to you, Sir.
I salute you my African brother
Gratitude to you friend! and to all of you out there who shared! Thanks again!
This is a story full of both awesome and stupid. Awesome that this kind heart would share all he has for a month. Stupid that someone in the richest country in the world makes $300/month for honest hard work.
Kenyans are nice people. This is proof. I hope good fortune falls on this man.
Some good, some bad, same as every country. I’m sure the Kenyans that chop others up and blow up people in Mombasa are not very nice.
Good on this man, it would also have been good to hear the hotel matched its employees donations, but business is business and they don’t care.
“they don’t care” speculative and presumptuous. What stands out in the article is that he quietly donated it and had this act exposed in a sense. For all you know, the hotel matched and went beyond, it’s not for you to hear for it to be true or to be the basis of a broad, stereotypical judgement against a whole hotel, its management or employees is it?
Let’s face it if they had matched their employees contributions then they would be shouting it from the roof tops.
The request is to face facts that you’re leaving out or to face your less optimistic view point? Unsubstantiated…again
It is better if they pay their employees a decent salary rather than the miserable 1150QAR. If that was the case the Filipino employee wouldn’t have needed any charity to rebuild his house back home.
Business are cynical Organisations. If they had donated they would be shouting about their good deeds. I’d like them to prove me wrong
The people who manage those businesses are the cynical ones, don’t you think? Not to defend IHG as a company, but at least they have charitable efforts going on globally……….http://www.ihgplc.com/index.asp?pageid=757.
Key charitable donations achievements in 2013
Launched an online donations request process that sits within our CR Report
to ensure transparency and consistency in community investment
Donated $1.92 million to charitable causes including employee donations and
consumer donations generated by IHG programmes, such as the redemption of IHG
Reward Club points by IHG Reward Club members.
So they managed programmes where others donated, including employees and customers.
Key charitable donations objectives 2014
Encourage and provide ways for our employees in all IHG hotels and corporate
offices to take an active part in the IHG Shelter in a Storm Programme through
raising awareness and funds for the IHG Shelter Fund
Seems they are damned by their own words….
Again…and you’re struggling here it would seem, not an actual piece of evidence to support your original comment that they don’t or didn’t match employee donations nor is it a supportive piece for anonymous corporate donations. Perhaps a better comment would have been something to the effect of “at the last place I worked we raised some money for something and the organization stepped in and matched us! It was great to see, especially in this cynical world. Does anybody know of any corporate matching initiatives here or at ihg? It’s a subject of great interest” then you haven’t purjured yourself nor tainted an entire company or article with a lack of facts and abundance of cynicism!
How does “Donated $1.92 million to charitable causes INCLUDING employee donations etc make them damned? I suppose you can read it any way you like if you convince yourself. Oh, plus another quote you missed on the same site “This will come from cash donations made by IHG offices, employees and IHG Rewards Club members as well as donations in-kind made by IHG and its hotels”. They have another almost $3m Dollars raised from their Shelter in a storm activity, also on a global level. They don’t seem to be the ones damned by their own words………
Again, a broad statement not based on fact and more of a reflection of your own cynicism. Businesses and individuals as well, believe it or not, are not bound to prove you as a commenter on doha news or anyone else wrong
What a shame that the Intercon pays its employees such a miserable salary. We like to say that some locals here are greedy people exploiting the poor, but I think many international companies here also as greedy and may be even worse. It would be great to see an Amnesty report on workers exploitation by foreign companies in Qatar.
This is so true! It’s all Brits complaining about the workers rights in Qatar but they are the number one to come here and abuse people! whatever suits them to make the most money they can …plus the colonial attitude and lack of respect to local cultures…and I’m European and I really don’t like that
Excuse me, how can you say Brits are the “number one to come here and abuse people!”
what on earth are you basing that on? You have made an offensive and unjustified comment, this is a positive story and you have done your bit to ruin it by expressing your Xenophobic views. Perhaps if you are such a saint you could go and give that generous gentleman $300 out of your pocket to show your superior respect for other cultures.
I’m not sure how this relates to the Intercon or any hotel group, most of the management are not Brits. You see a lot of Eastern Europeans and Arabs running these outfits.
Seem like you are a Brit hater. Tell you what I might join you for a beer and we can both abuse the Brits in their native language.
Well not really Brit hater! my point was that all UK newspapers seem to have this negative campaign about Qatar but they are not any better with how they treat people or treated them during colonial times! Also Brits seems to be those that are complaining the most in Qatar…just from my 7 yrs of experience here hehe
As @mimh:disqus and @garethwalters:disqus said, not all managers are Brits here. There are many Lebanese and other Arabs, and there are also Indians, French and Americans. The French have particularly bad management style and I have heard many stories of people complaining about their French managers. They are arrogant, disrespectful towards employees and not very tolerant with religious freedoms (they will always try restrict your “prayer break” or ask you to remove your Hijab during work). Anyway, many international companies are guilty of labour exploitation regardless of their origin and the nationality of their managers. This also has to be pointed out by NGOs when talking about labour issues in Qatar, but for now they are all bashing Qatar and ignoring foreign companies wrongdoings.
Abuse is perpetuated by many nationalities. Locals and not. Those abusing I have seen in my compound have these nationalities: Egyptian, Lebanese, French, Spanish, Sudanese, Indian….a potpourri!!!
Big lesson from DohaNews to everybody in Qatar especially those who generalise when they comment or react in an unfriendly manner when they see or meet or hear about someone from country they don’t like. Firstly, dohanews upload a story about murder case in court involve “accused” Kenya man, innocent or not we don’t know till judgement is pronouce. Again, dohanews run this beautiful story about another Kenyan gentleman who donated one month salary to help a friend from another continent. Kudos to Dohanews for the timing of this two separate stories. Lesson leant. To those who refuse to change, unfriendly to people around them because of their nationality, status or colour, stop being arrogant or generalising people, please continue your bad character, one day, people who are above you, earns more than you, would do the same to you, your kids, wife and relations. There is always going to be someone better than you. Peace.
Nice man. People instead of spending money
Take that back! Money on booze, night clubs and women is not wasted, its all the other things in life I waste my money on….
What is a waste to you may be useful to another person. Remember electricity can be generated from garbage. i have a friend who go to night club, drink booze that is far more generous, friendly, help lot of people than another friend of mine who don’t go to night club and i never see him say a simple thank you to an office tea boy. And believe me he does not do it in secret either, just his character. Now am not saying Night club or booze is good or bad another topic, is just does not make their spending useless or make them bad guy.
An act of kindness can go a long way..!
What a beautiful soul, Masha’Allah!! #Tears
all of my respect for this amazing human being!
He reminds me of the Christian parable of the poor widow putting her two coins, the only money she had, into the Temple treasury. “All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” This man’s kindhearted gesture truly puts to shame his employer and all employers in Qatar who can’t be bothered to pay their employees fair and decent wages so they don’t have to depend on charity.