I don’t remember being a very charitable person before the accident. It’s not like I was going out of my way for those who could have used a helping hand. That being said, I wasn’t mean nor selfish. I was just there; minding my own business and only chipping in when everybody else was. I took no responsibility for the problems that face us as a people. You can say I was naive to believe that we live in a world where hunger and disease rectify themselves. Maybe I was ignorant like an ostrich that buries its head in the sand and thinks it is protected from peril. It took me two broken vertebrae to realise that all we have in this world is ourselves.
The modern world is fast and stressful. Everywhere you look, people are pacing up and down the streets trying to make ends meet while meeting deadlines too. Others are back home living lives that are marred by frustration, each night when the sky is black and the winds are cold they fantasize about meeting their maker. Almost everyone these days is stressed about something and most times, we choose not to see. We are the generation that ignores.
If you look closely at most people that have gone through adversity, you will notice that there is a particular pattern about them. They grief, they heal and then they find new and better ways to help others like themselves grieve and heal easier. The most popular way to do this is to create foundations. Widows create foundations to offer support to women that have just lost their husbands. Cancer survivors create foundations to help fund chemotherapy for patients who can’t afford it. Then there is me. I created my foundation “Strong Spine” to help other disabled people to heal, just as my friends and family helped me.
Creating Strong Spine was probably one of the easiest decisions I have had to make recently. It was so easy that I took myself by surprise especially considering I was always the complacent one; the one standing at the back waiting for his peers to initiate charity visits, humanitarian and environmental projects. For a long time, I had lacked the vision to see the power that we possess as a community, with the goodness in our hearts, we can truly change lives; I can attest to this. I am a living testimony.
Being a village boy myself, I have seen how people with disabilities are treated around here. Their lives are pretty much confined to their rooms and worse, they are met with stigma in society that follows them for the rest of their lives. The first step for Strong Spine was obvious then; to create awareness and give an empowering face and voice to people living with disabilities. Awareness is basically showing people what they need to see. The village needed to see that people on wheelchairs can think for themselves, they can communicate about things that are not associated with their broken spines or emotional trauma. They can earn without begging, they can love and be loved. In essence, everyone needs to see that we are people and we don’t hold lesser claim to living the best life.
The second step was to provide some aid for those who are in dire need of it. Disability is quite expensive and I know those who have interacted with it will agree with this statement. An able person’s basic needs are food, shelter, clothing; these are already challenging to achieve. Add adult diapers, catheters, medication, wheelchairs, crutches and the challenge becomes even more daunting. I saw that there were people really struggling to find a balance in life in terms of meeting these needs so I began launching projects to raise funds for particular causes.
Before I could start asking people for money, I figured I could start with what I had. I made frequent visits to the provincial hospital in Nakuru, going to the wards and offering words of encouragement to the patients. These visits didn’t last long because I noticed that I was doing more harm than good by showing myself in the wards. To the patients, I was the reality they couldn’t get themselves to accept. Everyone would feed them with the hope of walking then I would turn up in my wheelchair and tell them about my five years on it. That’s not the truth they were after. Before I left though, I donated one of my wheelchairs to one gentleman who had shattered his spine. He wasn’t too receptive of it but I knew he’d eventually warm up to it in future. We all do.
Since then I have had three successful projects where I have used my social media platforms to mobilise funds. Early February we went to a children’s home in my village and took with us all the things that management had listed in terms of food, cleaning materials, sanitary towels, stationery. All this was made possible by young men and women like me reaching deep into their hearts and pockets for the good of humanity.
My attention was then drawn to a girl by the name of Ida from around Nakuru. She suffers a disease that has affected her lower limbs, requiring her to use a wheelchair. At just 11yrs, my heart sunk at the state she was in, using a wheelchair that wasn’t suited for her and having to live with constant pain. I spoke to my friends and issued a humble appeal. The response was humbling, to say the least. We received help even from abroad and changed Ida’s life. Big wins.
My most recent project was at a mentally challenged school which is also in my area. That too was a huge success and I count it as a blessing to be in a position to be the bridge that helps people find help.
Currently, we are looking forward to our most ambitious project yet; to build a house. Just six months after the inception of Strong Spine, we intend to build a humble home for our friend Joseph Kahuho who has had to face polio and poverty since birth. His feet are deformed in a way that makes it very difficult for him to walk. He lives in a house that’s made of mud and sticks. That’s the best his brother; who takes care of him can do. We thought building him a house was the perfect idea to touch his life. Everyone is welcome to join Strong Spine and to help us make strides towards inclusion and empowerment for people with disabilities.
It’s a humbling feeling to write about all the things we have achieved together. I am glad I took a leap into the unknown and got over my complaisance. I have grown in so many ways as a man. Strong Spine has held a mirror to me and I have seen myself learn compassion and appreciate it. Love isn’t that rare, we only need to nurture it from what we already have. People who are loved; love. I am so ambitious right now, the spark became a flame and now it has grown into a roaring blaze. The future of Strong Spine is encouraging and this gives me new life every morning I wake up. It’s a wonderful time to be alive! From Stairs To Ramps: Strong Spine & Why We Need To Join Together To Change The Lives Of Persons With Disabilities
Brian Muchiri is a passionate writer who draws his inspiration from the experiences in his own life and of those around him. He is candid and he seeks to inspire society to be more pro active and vocal about the social issues that affect us. Brian is also actively involved in pushing for awareness and inclusion of people with disabilities through his foundation; Strong Spine.