Giving Kenyans with mobility disability a second shot at life
At just 32, Julius Riari Mwangi had his whole life ahead of him. The casual labourer was planning to start a business; he was on the cusp of becoming his own boss.
With just a few months remaining to start the business, he was involved in a horrific accident that left him paralysed. “I got a spinal injury and from the doctor’s report, I had to remain on a wheelchair for the rest of my life,” says the 39-year-old.
This was the most traumatising moment for him because he knew his family could not afford to buy him a wheelchair.
However, through combined efforts, the family and community managed to get him one.
With the wheelchair, he could move from one place to another to look for employment, but life took a new twist a year later when the wheelchair became worn out.
With no one coming to his aid Mwangi relied on family for everything; they even carried him when he needed to move get to a different location.
The only thing standing between him and living his life was a simple wheelchair. Mwangi is not the only person with mobility disability who cannot afford a wheelchair.
Statistics by Global Disability Rights Now, a United States-based resource centre, says Kenya currently has an estimated 1.16 million people with mobility disability and a huge number of them do not have financial capacity to own a wheelchair, which could go a long way in making them more productive.
Fortunately, after a visit by Optiven Foundation recently, Mwangi is now able to move around with ease.
The Kenyan based philanthropy outfit, recently named the Foundation of the Year 2019 by the Netherlands-based Voice Achievers Award, is helping hundreds of Kenyans with mobility disability by giving them free wheelchairs through the ‘Mobility that Brings Smiles’ programme.
The programme seeks to transform live of many disadvantaged Kenyans who are physically challenged and without financial capacity to purchase a wheelchair for their mobility.
The programme has succeeded in helping hundreds of people acquire wheelchairs.
“Empowering young persons like Mwangi, an energetic Kenyan who only requires a bit of lifting to be productive again, is what drives us.
It means we are bringing back a smile to a fellow human being who was otherwise stranded and unable to move.
There are many more Kenyans who have the capacity to fend for their families, but they are jailed by their inability to afford a simple wheelchair. As a society, we have a responsibility to help them,” says George Wachiuri, Optiven Foundation Chairman and Trustee.
He notes that offering them such simple, but vital equipment, which only goes for about Sh15,300, means they stop being dependent on other people, with some of them now even able to cater for their families’ needs.
“Some of these people are our parents, our brothers, our sisters and our children. All they need is that extra pair of wheels and they are ready to conquer the world,” says Wachiuri.
Besides giving out wheelchairs, the Foundation is also involved in charitable works in poverty alleviation, environmental protection, education and health.
Among its undertakings are offering scholarships to hundreds of young children across Kenya through its Soaring Eagles Scholarship Programme (SESP) and supporting Soweto Anti-Aids Children’s Home in Kayole, Nairobi.