By Bell Pere
Twenty-five year- old Dan Kipkoech is not your ordinary disabled man.
He moves around Narok town on his wheelchair selling household items such as utensils popularly called “Mali Mali” to his loyal customers.
He is a happy young man, proudly working to earn a living rather than sit by the roadside begging for money from passersby.
Kipkoech or Kip as his friends call him was born in Bomet County, Longisa Sub-County.
He was born with a rare medical condition characterized by progressive muscle stiffness (spasticity) which caused the subsequent development of paralysis of the lower limbs (paraplegia).
When his family found out that he was disabled and could not walk they thought it was a curse.
He went through resentment and stigma from some members of his family members him who claimed he was a bad omen.
They even sought the services of a traditional healer to perform some rituals and banish the curse from they claimed he had visited on the family.
His parents were not ready to accept that their first born child was a disabled but came to terms with his situation later when his father took the responsibility of taking him to and back from school.
His schooling began and ended at Bomet Primary School because he could not proceed to secondary school due to lack of school fees.
He stayed at home for five years after primary school in 2011 but decided to move to Narok town in July 2016 where he became a street beggar.
After begging and saving money for about a year, he asked an artisan to make him a wheel chair at a cost of Sh6, 000 to enable him to move around Narok town.
He remained with a balance of Sh1,500 which he used to start a business of selling banana, mangoes and watermelon.
He also sold soda, biscuits and sweets for a year before he decided to change the business to what he is doing currently – selling house hold wares, popularly called mali mali.
He quit the previous business because most of his customers were taking goods on credit and failing to pay on time, thus causing cash flow issues.
His common customers that normally buy his ware are motor-cycle operators (popularly known as boda boda) and women who are passers-by that also buy his wares. .
On a good day, Kipkoech makes up to Sh5,000 and Sh2,00 when the business is down, giving him a cool Sh60,000 monthly on the lower side.
He is currently saving part of his daily income in order to expand his business in future to a wholesale shop or even supermarket.
Every young person has dreams and Dan is no exception, because he always dreamed of becoming a pilot to fly to different parts of the world and visit many countries.
He however never got the opportunity to further his studies as his father did not have enough money to take him to secondary school.
He admits it has not been easy moving around selling wares because of the sun and rain among other challenges like crossing the busy roads.
s there are a lot of challenges that come with doing this business. This era of Covid-19 pandemic means sometimes he goes home without something to put in his stomach.
He is appealing to well-wishers to help buy a Tuk Tuk so that he can move around easily when doing his business.
Kipkoech loves watching movies during his free time and listens to music as he sells his wares around Narok town.
He has many boda boda rider friends with whom he discusses politics of the day and major issues affecting the youth in Narok County at large.
He is hopeful that he will get married and raise a family of his own and advises youth that disability is not inability.
He also encouraged people living with disability to stop self-pity and work to the best of their ability in order to support themselves instead of depending on people.
Samson Nyamu, one of friends and loyal customer said that he is very proud of Kipkoech’s hard earned efforts.
Another friend Dennis Koech said that he helps him clean his house before arranging them on his customized wheelchair ready for selling.
He says Kipkoech is a hard working person who wakes up early in the morning to prepare for the day and comes home as late as 8pm in the evening.
He hopes the businessman will one day be able to have a Tuk Tuk or even a better wheelchair.
According to the 2019 population census, 2.2 per cent of Kenyans live with some form of disability translating to close to 1 million people.
The data shows those with mobility disability form the bulk of this figure at 400,000 people.
Such people face a lot of stigma, therefore any person who lives with some serious form of disability and strives to live a normal life albeit with challenges should be celebrated.