Meet A Man Who Proves That He Who Is Not Valiant Dies, But He That Is Bold Bears Calamity.

Michael Njenga Mwangi from Kambiti in Maragwa Constituency is a perfect example that calamity is surely the test of endurance.

In November 2000, Mwangi lost his eyesight after taking the infamous ‘kumikumi’ brew that claimed 1,200 people in the country.

At the time of his misfortune, Mwangi was a matatu driver in Gachie area of Kiambu County. He had just secured a permanent job after a very long search of a job.

On that fateful day, Mwangi was off duty and was relaxing at home with his wife. His then employer, who was very close to him, came to his house for a visit. With him was a bottle of chang’aa that he had come to share with his friend-cum-employee.

“He just found my wife and I taking some drinks. He took both glasses, filled them with the brew, took one and handed me the other. I kind of protested since I had stopped taking liqour for some time and was not in the mood to drink,” said Mwangi.

Mwangi’s first sip triggered an unfamiliar instinct within him that the brew was not right and he pointed it to his friend. His buddy ridiculed him to giving in and taking the stuff.

“I told him that the liquor had some funny taste but he protested and dismissed my sentiments by saying that I was proud and boasting now that I had money to buy beer.”

Mwangi took two more sips and stopped. His friend gulped merrily and later excused himself to leave. Immediately his friend left, Mwangi poured the remaining contents in his glass and retired to bed.

The following morning, he woke up and resumed work as usual. It was during the course of his work that he got wind that his boss had fallen ill and had been rushed to Kenyatta Hospital. Later in the day, his boss succumbed to the ailment and passed on.

Three days later, Mwangi developed some eye complications that failed his eyesight. He could not see objects that were more than 50 metres away. He informed his wife of his condition and was rushed to a nearby hospital. He was later referred to Kenyatta National Hospital where he found about a hundred other victims of the killer brew. He was to later learn of his fate that he would no longer regain his sight.

Things went from bad to worse as days went by.

“When I lost my sight, I went home and instead of being accepted I was turned away and presumed to be a bother. I was at times subjected to domestic violence. At one time I contemplated committing suicide but the thought of dying like a coward put me off and resolved to fight my battles like a soldier,” he said.

Mwangi resolved never to seek people’s sympathy but instead do something for himself. He rented a quarry in Gachie where he worked for 5 years before the landlord stopped his operations. He then moved to his rural home in Kambiti and started a tree nursery that he works till now.

He has been through thick and thin but says that he isn’t going to look back. His endeavour has been facing several challenges due to his condition. His location, being next to the busy Kenol-Meru Highway, presents various challenges to his work.

“The highway has its own challenges. Some people pose as customers and hand me fake sh. 1,000 notes to buy say sh200 worth of seedlings. In this way, I end up losing my seedlings plus sh. 800. Another challenge is that whenever I seek assistance in my nursery, the people I contract at times deliberately make blunders that eventually have great negative impact on my business,” said Mwangi.

It is his for this reason that he decided to do everything by himself. This is quite a challenge for he at times fall into the river as he goes to fetch water. His nursery is quite small and cannot comfortably meet his needs.

When asked if he had ever tried seeking assistance to access funding from funds meant for Persons Living With Disabilities, Mwangi sighted corruption and political interference that has over time denied them any form of assistance.

“We had previously formed groups but all our efforts were frustrated by CDAs who are manipulated by the politicians who influenced their positions. There are also those who collude with elected group officials to swindle the monies allocated to the groups.”

He also said that none of the genuine disabled people in the constituency have ever benefitted from government tenders.

“These tenders only go back to those people who are close to our political leaders or rich enough to corrupt their way to the tenders,” lamented Mwangi.

He is now calling on well-wishers to assist him acquire a water pump and some finances to upgrade and expand his nursery.

His advice to fellow Persons Living With Disabilities?

“The purest ore is produced from the hottest furnace and the brightest thunder-bolt is elicited from the darkest storm. Don’t wait for someone else’s sympathy. Disability is not inability. God created you with a mind to reason that is different from the animals. There is a lot that one can do. Believe in yourselves and trust in God. If you expect people to sympathise in you, you will die poor. Wake up and do something!”

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