Disabled in Kenya climb Mt. Kenya to raise awareness


Musa Kirokote, a climber on wheelchair, says his only disability is having abnormal joy

NAIROBI, Kenya

As the world marks the International Day of Disabled Persons on Tuesday, a group of intellectually disabled Kenyans have climbed Africa’s second highest mountain in a bid to raise awareness about the challenges that disabled people face in the East African nation of Kenya.

Among the group of 30 were people on wheelchairs who were pushed up by those who could climb on foot over 5,000 meters (16,404 feet) snow-capped Mt. Kenya, bracing the cold temperatures — especially during the rainy season from August to December.

Musa Kirokote was one of them braving to climb the mountain on a wheelchair.

He lost his biological family when they threw their baby in a pile of garbage in Western Kenya after discovering Kirokote has cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that appears in early childhood, due to injury or malformation to the brain prior to its development before, during, or after birth.

The 27-year-old said a woman picked him up and she has always been his mother since then.

“My only disability is having abnormal joy, I do everything for myself as much as I can.

“I am on a wheelchair, most of the time I climb stairs without help, I cook a lot of meals for myself, I work as a carpenter and create things from wood, I love life and love living.”

Besides raising money for disabled people, Kirokote also wants raise awareness with his climb for people like him that they also need employment.

“We can do any work that anyone can do, maybe even better than normal people,” he said.

It is not only prejudices against disabled people but African traditional myths and beliefs that Kirokote is struggling.

He believes that he was thrown out to die to dispel bad luck which is a common belief among many traditional Kenyan tribes.

While being pushed up the mountain, they became the first people to climb the Mt. Kenya on wheelchairs, despite unknown to Musa and his colleagues.

Peter Mwangi is the organizer of the event from L’Arche, an international non-governmental voluntary organization.

“Our aim is to raise awareness about people living with intellectual disability which is synonymous with a physical disability. They are forgotten and their interventions even within the government are not as good as people with physical disabilities,” Mwangi said.

“Our targeted to raise $60,000 and we were able to raise $10,000 which will provide employment opportunities for the people.”

The disabled in Kenya are asking for government support in order to get employment. The Kenyan law requires that both public and private sector employers reserve 5% of jobs for disabled persons.

“We, women and men with disabilities, can and want to be productive members of the society,” Kirokote said.

Isaac Mugo, the senior warden at Mt. Kenya National Park, lauded the move, saying as a state agency they fully support their initiative and goal.

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