It’s been an incredible adventure since I started writing about my experience with Glaucoma. I have met wonderful persons’ who are changing how the world and the society view persons with disabilities. In my capacity as a Glaucoma Awareness Blogger, and the Assistant Treasurer for Society of Professionals with Visual Disability (SOPVID), I was honored to receive an invite from my friend Mugambi Paul to be part of his 18-year celebration of being blind. He is a person who wears many hats that sometimes I can’t help but ask him when he gets time to sleep or time to himself. He is an inspirational and motivational speaker, a musician, and an activist in disability mainstreaming on a personal capacity. In an official capacity, he is the regional coordinator for the National Council for Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD). Wouldn’t you be as amazed as I at how he copes with all the roles he undertakes? You can read more about him on his website’s link http://www.mugambipaul.com/
In his usual style, he wasn’t going to make the 18-year celebration all about him. He chose to share the day with his friends at EDEN CENTRE located in Thika Town. The centre caters for children with various disabilities by providing them with shelter, food, education among other necessities that help them to live their lives without discrimination. It’s saddening that some parents are ashamed of having children with disabilities, that they lock them indoors when they should be proud of them. Part of the centre’s responsibility is to create awareness that children with disabilities deserve to fulfill their potential while being empowered with their identity, capacity and rights. The children should enjoy equal opportunities among communities where they are free from discrimination, and love dominates their lives. The centre’s vision is to advocate for change and supports the children to fulfill their lives on equal terms with others, and with dignity.
The morning weather wasn’t as welcoming as it was drizzling, and the center was off the main road. I had debated about how I was going to get there, as I prayed that the floodgates wouldn’t open up. The umbrella that I was carrying wasn’t strong, and if gusts of wind were to blow, it could be easily carried away. While I was in the supermarket buying some items to take to the children’s home, Mugambi called me and asked where I was, I informed him that I had just arrived in the city, and I was about to leave to go to the center. He told me that transport was available, and they were going to pick me up. I was utterly surprised and excited that my prayers to avoid the rain were not only answered, but they were answered beyond my expectations. My ride arrived, and soon we were on the road headed to EDEN CENTRE.
When we arrived in the centre’s town, we were received by some of the children from the main road, who led us to the centre. It reminded me of the times’ when our former president Daniel Moi used to travel to schools. Children would await him with songs and dances on the road stretch up to their schools. Once we got to the center, we were welcomed with hundreds of children waiting at the gate. The excitement and smiles on their faces were intoxicating as they held our hands, leading us inside to our designated sitting positions. Once we settled down, we were given a hearty welcome by the centre’s director Eunice. She invited Mugambi, who was the guest of honor to speak, and to introduce his friends. The children stared at us with awe and admiration. At the front, three children caught my attention. There were Charity, Kabogo and Timothy. Kabogo is a child with spinal injury. What amazed me about him was how responsible he was. Whenever I stood up to take photos, Charity would keep reaching out for my hand, touching my earrings and clothes. Kabogo would tell her “Stop that Charity, it’s bad manners.” Charity drew me in because she was unashamed to reach out and did whatever she wanted. It proved that she was a risk taker and was unafraid to go after her dreams and goals. She is also named like my mother, and she reminded me of bits of her. Sitting on the other side of Kabogo was Timothy, a child with cerebral palsy. He amazed me with his quiet exuberance throughout the event. It was like he was observing the guests while he took notes in his mind. Whenever he needed something, he asked for it with authority. One of the things he did was request for a bottle of water. He struggled to open it for awhile, and when he couldn’t, he asked one of the teachers to open it for him. After that, he drank his water, closed his bottle and kept it close to him. Whenever he was thirst, his tiny arms would pick it, open it, drink it, close it, and keep it by him. I was glad that his mother chose not to keep him indoors, and I got to meet him at the centre.
The children sang, rapped, and performed poems for us. They exuded shyness and sometimes we couldn’t hear what they said. However, the bravery that got them to stand before us and perform was enough on its own. We laughed till tears came out. Every performance touched us deeply that words cannot explain. Before we realized it was 5 p.m., and the clouds were threatening to open up, however, they didn’t. Instead, the sun came out so that we could enjoy the day with the adorable children.
Before leaving, we couldn’t go without giving our donations to the EDEN CENTRE, and the children. Without the children, there wouldn’t be an EDEN CENTRE. There were foodstuffs, umbrellas (in preparation for the so-called “El-Nino”) among other items. The event was closed with a word of prayer, and the children led us out to our vehicles again. The children from the football team ran beside the cars as we left. They called it “Their football practice for the day”. They were singing to the music that played in the cars as they ran. Even as they lost their breath, they didn’t miss a word of the song. The song was Chameleone’s “TUBONGE”. Once we reached the main road, they let go of the vehicles as they waved goodbye to us. I couldn’t help but stare at them through the side mirrors as we drove away.
A part of me was left there, as I carried a part of them with me. I’m going to go back there because I have chosen to mentor two of the children that tagged at my heart. Disability shouldn’t be a reason to keep anyone from achieving their dreams and goals. My friend Mugambi is an epitome that you can achieve everything that you set your mind to. I am glad that he went to encourage the children of EDEN CENTRE. When he left the centre, he left them with hope and courage that they could be anyone they wanted to be. To us, we spent our day motivating the children. Today, we are busy working on other issues in disability mainstreaming. To the children, however, we left a mark on them that would last a lifetime, and that they would cherish forever.
As my friend, Mugambi always reminds me “No one is immune to join the 43rd tribe called disability”. It’s an open club for everyone, so the next time you meet that person with disability on the streets, or if you are related to someone with disability, treat them with love and respect. Nobody knows their tomorrow, live for today.
Mugambi thanks his UK friends for linking him with EDEN CENTRE. It was a memorable day never to be forgotten.