by Antony Kochiyo
Societies across the world have single mindedly put down the disabled people. They are often raised to be ashamed of being what they are; a second class citizen mentality that always gnaws their sense of significance.
On their side, the disabled seem to have accepted this unfortunate situation. In Busia town, however, the disabled are swimming against this strong tide. While in other places the disabled are seen as beggars, in Busia more importance is attached to their identity.
Having mastered the art of self reliance, through the support of the Association of people living with Disabilities in Kenya (APDK), a Non-governmental Organization, that aides disabled people with mobility devices, John Joseph Odhier believes that it is time the chains of cultural, religious, societal and communal prejudices pitted against the him are broken down.
At the age of 39, the father of two is among the disabled here who earn a living by transporting customers’ luggage across the border using his wheel chair.
“Many people thought I was not serious when I was fitting the carrier on my wheel chair as I told them that I wanted to be a boda boda,” he says, explaining the doubt that people had about his idea.
The unique idea, which is probably the only one of its kind in the country is quickly gaining ground as more disabled in the border town use their wheel chairs to ferry goods across the busy Kenya-Uganda border. The wheel chairs which were donated to them by the Association of People Living with Disabilities in Kenya (APDK)– came to John like a bright light of hope illuminating his future which had been mantled by darkness of despair.
“I felt showered with blessings after I received this tri-circle from the APDK,” John said amidst smiles of joy. In a good day, John takes home about 300 shillings from his business. As days go by, he continues to win the confidence of more customers. His wheelchair can carry items as heavy as 50 kilogram sacks of sugar.
“We trust him because he is careful unlike boda boda(taxi bicycle) or mkokoteni(hand cat) who mishandle our luggage,” said Florence, one of John’s customers.
Women too were not left behind in the APDKs project and they also readily joined the creative trade after receiving the tri circles.
As the tankers and trucks clatter and groan, belching noxious fumes into the air, confusion is all over the town, it is hard to concentrate at any one particular point of focus, but the image of a 30 year old woman ridinging on a wheel chair with crates of bread at the back arrests one’s attention.
Mrs. Angela Kasila is one of the many beneficiaries of the wheel chair project. Born and bred in Mbiihi Village of Vihiga District, She has had to fight the twin battle of living as a woman in a society where women work twice as hard to earn respect and staying with disability in a community that stigmatizes and discriminates the disabled.
“In our society even monkeys do not respect women and our men always remind us of that,” Angela says in bitter tones of a disappointed woman.
She explains her past experience saying that misfortune dodged her steps at tender age of 14 and she had to drop out of school so as to subsidize the meager family earnings and in silence she suffered, always being kept indoors. .
She also says that the government has failed to recognize them and gives a fair share of blame to the media for not highlighting their sufferings.
“APDK could not have come at a better time” she says
She is grateful that APDK has supported her and her other colleagues who have taken to the business and gone into the transport sector to earn a living.
“I am proud that APDK be given us support and I hope that they extend this good work to the disabled in the entire nation.” says Angela.
She has narrated her story for a long time now and Angela needs to go home now.
As the hot East African sun showers the border town with it’s golden rays, she disappears a mid the throng of humanity choking the town’s streets in the dying evening light.
In the past they had been feeling empty that fate may have woven a web of misfortune into their lives, but with the support they have received from the APDK and the business idea that came their way, Angela and her other forty counterparts who benefited from the project cannot just loose hope.
As Angela rides her wheel chair into the future, she runs away from her past with a smile, her hopes restored by the support she received, her optimism hope resurrected by the intervention of the APDK and her strength drawn from the business that now is promising.She knows that in not some too distant tomorrow, life will smile back too for she already have a route that will lead her to success.