Saturday, August 18, 2012

Zack is back home with Sh73 million

Photo|FILE Zachary Kimotho was confined to a wheelchair following a spinal cord injury inflicted by carjackers eight years ago.

Photo|FILE Zachary Kimotho was confined to a wheelchair following a spinal cord injury inflicted by carjackers eight years ago.   Nation Media Group

By PETER OBUYA [email protected]

From the confines of his wheelchair, one man has been on a journey that few would attempt.

Zachary Kimotho was confined to a wheelchair following a spinal cord injury inflicted by carjackers eight years ago.

And early this year, he was picked by the Kenya Paraplegic Organisation to head a campaign to raise the profile of the plight of spinal injury victims in Kenya. The campaign was known as Bring Zack Back Home. (READ: Kenyan set for trip to SA on wheelchair)

Now, Zack is home after travelling 115 kilometres and raising Sh73 million in 60 days.

The campaign intended to raise Sh250 million to build a rehabilitation centre in Kiserian near Nairobi that can accommodate up to 75,000 spinal injury victims.

Zack knew heading the campaign was not going to be easy. He was required to wheel himself 4,000 kilometres from Nairobi to Cape Town.

The first phase of his trip ended on Friday. Organisers say he may not have to travel for the second phase if they get the Sh177 million balance through donations.

The problems Zack faced were many. First it was the “big-headed” drivers on the busy Athi River-Namanga highway.

“Many drivers often threatened to run over me. They refused to slow down despite my support crew waving them down,” he said.

“And whenever we were going uphill, I also had to persevere the nauseating exhaust fumes. In fact, some drivers revved their engines deliberately.”

That was not all. “Extreme weather conditions also weighed me down at times. Sometimes it was extremely hot and it could get extremely cold within a short time. The weather was very erratic.”

Zack, a single father of one, also felt the pain of being away from his family for such a long period. And then he got word that his father had fallen ill. But, despite it all, he completed his mission. Now, he is happy to be back home.

“My father was hospitalised and I needed to attend to him. Besides, it’s the longest time I have been away from my family.

"I have missed my son, and being his mother and father at the same time, he must have missed me too. But I am happy we are now reunited,” he said.

Zack’s wife passed away in mid-2003, only months before his life-changing ordeal in the hands of carjackers.

Zack said his hope was kept alive by the contributions that kept coming in. Those who gave Sh1 a day contributed over Sh500,000 while those who gave Sh2 and Sh5 contributed more than Sh100, 000.

The rest of the money was raised by well-wishers and corporates. Zack believes the campaign has been successful.

Already, construction of the centre has begun using the Sh73 million. Plans to build a rehabilitation centre started in 2006 when Kenya Paraplegic Organisation Executive Director Tim Wanyonyi and other paraplegics decided to raise funds for one.

They were able to buy a 12-acre plot in Kiserian, where the centre will be.

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