Narok shoe shiner battles foot cancer

Joseph Maina shoe shiner

By Bell Pere

You will spot him every day at one of Narok’s bus terminus mending shoes.

On a dusty or rainy day you might stop over at Joseph Maina’s stool to get your shoes shined after all who would want to walk around wearing dirty shoes.

 A sturdy worried but yet smiling face will be the first thing that you notice from Maina who has been shining shoes for over twelve years under the scorching sun or cold and rainy skies of Narok town.

Leaning on a flat iron sheet wall, it will probably take you a few more minutes to notice that he does not have one foot, whose stub he hides under a rug that also covers shoes that need fixing.

You may empathise with him but you will most likely soon forget about him when you hit the street in your shiny or well mended shoes.  

What you may not know is that he was diagnosed with foot cancer in the year 2007 and since then he has been battling the disease with all his might and wits.

He wakes up early every morning takes breakfast if he is lucky enough to have some and then contacts a boda boda rider who drops him at the bus terminus at a fee of Sh50.

A group of friends mostly touts and street children then assists him settle by positioning  two stools and a tool box at his shanty from there he can receive his first customer.

If it is too sunny the friends draw rugs on the iron sheet wall and create a temporary roof but if it is raining they use pieces of polythene paper to cover the roof.

On a good day Maina will make Sh250 but he sometimes does not get any money making it hard for him to place three meals on the table.

Maina who currently lives in London Estate within Narok town says it has been difficult to pay the Sh2,000 monthly rent.

He has quarrels with his landlord who at times understands his predicament but on many occasions he is forced to call a few friends for a quick loan that he repays promptly.

Joseph Maina mending a worn out shoe

Maina who hails from a small village in Narok Town, went to  Masikonde Primary School where he completed his studies but failed to proceed further due to the financial circumstances of his parents.

He moved to Melili in Narok North Sub County, an area well known for agricultural productivity and started working on peoples farms as a farm hand or‘Shamba boy’.

Life got better for him as he became stable, got married and was later blessed with children.

While still working on shambas, Maina started experiencing pain on his right foot and after visiting a few local clinics and hospitals he was referred to Narok County Referral Hospital where he was given the sad and painful truth.

“I remember the day the doctors told me I have foot cancer. It was very painful to know I had an illness that could kill me,” he said.

He could not return to his normal daily schedule of manual labour, digging and cultivating on the farms and was forced to stay at home and at the mercy of his wife.

His foot condition deteriorated further and was soon referred to Kenyatta National Hospital where he was told his foot had to be cut off for his health to improve.

With one limb he was unable to fend for his family and that is how his wife and children left him.

A friend who was a shoe shiner empathized with his condition and decided to apprentice him on how to mend shoes to earn a living.

That is how he found himself in that line of business working under rainy and sunny skies of Narok Town.

Maina wants assistance to make him set up a proper shop that can shield him from the harsh weather conditions daily.

“Customers are attracted to a clean place that they can relax as I mend to their shoes,” he added.

Zakayo Kagotho a tout at the bus terminu and a loyal customer says he is very pleased with his friend’s work.

Another friend Benjamin Memusi says Maina undergoes a lot of challenges daily including not getting customers at his shanty.

When he has a few shillings to spare or lunch he gladly shares with him.

Peter Thigari also another friend hopes he will get assistance in whatever way including a shop where he can fend for himself.

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