Students Empower Disabled Community in Baringo and Kajiado Counties

John Lomtono from Baringo is a happy wheelchair beneficiary

A team of students from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) has undertaken a transformative mission in Baringo and Kajiado counties, working in collaboration with Motivation Charitable Trust and A.I.C Kajiado Child Care Centre to provide essential mobility solutions for people with disabilities.

This project aims to improve the lives of individuals with mobility disabilities through the provision of wheelchairs by assessing, prescribing, fitting, and training them on how to use and maintain the wheelchairs.

In each of the rural outreach initiatives, 10 students, equally divided between occupational therapy and physiotherapy, ventured into Baringo County from October 26-27, 2023, following a successful outreach in Kajiado County on October 19-20, 2023.

In total, 30 individuals benefitted from these life-changing interventions which took place within the facilities of AIC, where individuals with mobility needs were mobilized by community leaders. These wheelchairs were provided at a subsidized cost or waived after a social assessment, to underscore accountability.

The project was led by Dr. Mwangi Matheri, the Chairman of the Department of Rehabilitative Sciences at JKUAT who emphasized how the practical rural experience complemented the theoretical knowledge gained from the World Health Organization’s basic wheelchair training, offering students a strong training foundation.

Dr. Matheri believes, the rural experience will provide invaluable insights, promoting a holistic understanding of the challenges faced by individuals living with disabilities. This was evident in the reflections shared by the students.

Chrispo Njuguna, a Bachelor of Science Physiotherapy student says, he experienced “a truly remarkable and engaging session” in Kajiado because of the profound work undertaken by the facility in supporting children with disabilities  to achieve their aspirations. One particular moment that touched his heart was the opportunity to assemble a wheelchair for a primary school pupil.

“Witnessing the sheer joy on the child’s face was an unforgettable experience. This hands-on involvement allowed me to gain invaluable insights into the intricate process of the wheelchair provision process.  I left with a deep sense of gratitude for having been a part of such a meaningful experience.”

Ms. Fridah Kiyai, (left) Head of Rehabilitative Services Baringo County Referral Hospital lauded the JKUAT Wheelchair project

The Baringo outreach coincided with 2023 World Occupational Therapy Day, themed, “Unity through Community.” The theme was aptly demonstrated as many individuals with disabilities, whose families were unable to transport them to the center, were brought by neighbors and well-wishers, highlighting the unity that can be achieved through community efforts.

The head of Rehabilitative Health Services in Baringo County, Ms. Fridah Kiyai, who led a team of county officials, lauded the students’ initiative, recognizing the profound impact of their work. She also encouraged individuals to register with the National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD) and acquire a disability card so as to benefit in various ways.

Mr. Paul Kiptis, Manager of AIC Special Child Care Centre in Baringo, emphasized the pressing need for continued support for people living with disabilities, especially children. He pointed out the scarcity of special schools catering to those with spinal injuries in the country, which often results in these children missing out on basic education.

He also called upon family members to assist with other responsibilities, such as providing food and medical care, as malnourishment can further weaken individuals with disabilities.

Although assistive devices such as wheelchairs are vital, it is important to note that most of these disabilities in the region are preventable.  For instance, Mr. Morulem Epokon’s is unable to walk due to severe osteoporosis caused by consuming unpurified lake water containing environmental metals and chemicals that disrupt bone metabolism.

As a result, Epokon is one of the many among the aging population who has developed a humpback, an excessive curvature of the upper back thus affecting the spine.

Others such as Mr. John Lomtomo have been incapacitated by chronic wounds on the legs which are caused by tropical diseases. After the amputation of his right leg years ago, his remaining leg is already affected; this could have been prevented with accurate early diagnosis.

This therefore calls for integrated approaches in preventing and managing disabilities. The grateful wheelchairs recipients expressed their appreciation for the life-changing gesture. Worn-out wheelchairs were replaced, while those without wheelchairs received one for the first time, bringing newfound mobility and hope into their lives.

Morulem Epokon is disabled due to severe osteoporosis caused by unpurified water from Lake Baringo

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