The expanse that of the land forming the hills and valleys of Kajiado enveloped by the landscape of Mout Kilimanjaro, led to the winding road that led a team of staff working with Optiven Foundation to Loitoktok. The visit was a culmination of plans and interactions with the local Fellowship of Christian Churches in the area through a mutual meeting with a resident. The foundation team was in the town located on the foothills of Africa’s highest mountain – Mount Kilimanjaro that borders Tanzania and Kenya to share smiles and transform lives through the Mobility That Brings Smiles Campaigns.
Our host, Pastor Richard Mwangi of the Fellowship of Christian Churches – Loitoktok, who hails from the area shared a history of the beneficiaries noting that : “over the years the church has been receiving a lot of requests for assistance to enable congregants gain independence especially those living with disabilities. We are grateful with the partnership that Optiven Foundation has offered which provides hope to the beneficiaries”. The introduction then kicked off a series of road swerves and turns that led the team to the home of Mama Kanini aka Margaret Mbau Kamau – a single mother living with a Beatrice Kanini Kioko who is living with disability and is not able to support herself owing to her mental health.
Kanini was born healthy but in her teen years she was misdiagnosed with malaria which was later confirmed to be meningitis. The effect of the misdiagnosis had left her paralysed and mentally unstable. Her mother who had been a casual labourer for years in the Kuku Sublocation of Loitoktok had no choice but to take time off work to care for her daughter. She spoke of her daughter saying : “Kanini was born a healthy child but did not have the joy of knowing her better years owing to the disease that left her dependent for food, cleaning, care and even medicine when available.”
Her case was a familiar one to the area church leadership and especially Pastor Mwangi who for many years has provided socio spiritual support through the Loitoktok Christian Church. “The case of Kanini is familiar to a majority of the people of Loitoktok and especially here in Kuku area where she has grown. We are grateful for all those who have been providing food to the girl and especially the mother who is not able to provide for her because she has no one to leave Kanini with. When organizations such as Optiven Foundation come to help it means the lives of this family will never be the same again – as you can see though she can’t speak, she is smiling happily. We thank you”.
The Optiven Foundation team was also in Loitoktok to transform the lives of the community living in Kisanjanii courtesy of Pastor Simon Kinaiya, Pastor at Fellowship of Christian Churches – Kisanjanii branch. This was at the home of the Nkonyonyo family who had been living with their mother Surungat Maria – a mother who had become paralysed after giving birth to twins close to 12 years ago.
Her co-wife Repha Joel Mpatia from Tanzania told the team that “God had finally remembered the family and the wheelchair was not only new, but it meant that Naisho will now see the sunshine more and even better be able to go to church and see her children.” Following the paralysis after the birth of her twins, Surungat got paralysed from the hips to her legs.
A lack of health facilities in the area meant that she was not able to get medical attention and the paralysis spread to affect her neck, hands and left side of her head – rendering her immobile on the most part. But the joy of receiving the wheelchair was not ordinary to her and Surungat gathered all her strength to speak saying, “the God who sees will bless the team at Optiven Foundation for bringing life back to my ailing body and soul.” The tears of joy flowed freely as the family and friends of this neighborhood joined their Pastor Soloka Keriempere overlooking Tanzania in the expanse of the grasslands there was both mobility and smiles.
As we empower the community, the Optiven Foundation is keen to ensure that the children are not left behind. The team visited the children of Teule within Loitoktok town where they empowered them with inspiration and encouragements and later presented sanitary pads and under garments to the children. Speaking at the event, the team urged the children to be respectful of their minders, to focus on their education and to always have hope for a better future because the future belongs to them.
Teule is a children’s home in Loitoktok that caters for orphans through providing them with a safe aboard to stay, opportunities to an education as well as engaging in sustainable activities that include a guest house, a farm and selling of water to the community. The team expressed their gratitude with the children led by Morgan and Chebii urging the Optiven family to visit the home again to share time with the children.
At the end of the day, it was worth it to see the sun set with smiles on the faces of the boys and girls – fulfilling a key pillar of Optiven Foundation, as it seeks to be an agent of transformation and at the same time, focusing its eyes on the community towards achieving social and economic empowerment of the community.
Loitoktok district comprises an area of 6300 km2 and is home to the Ilkisonko subgroup of the Maasai people. However, several non-Maasai groups, of which the Kikuyu and Kamba are the most numerous, now live in Loitoktok. Fig. 1 shows Loitoktok district in relation to the map of Kenya. It is located in the southwestern part of the Rift valley province of Kenya and borders Kajiado central district to the north, Namanga district to the northwest, Tanzania to the southwest, Taita-Taveta and Makueni districts to the southeast and northeast, respectively. Its highest point is the slopes of the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro (the highest mountain in Africa) and the Chyulu hills while its lowest point is the Amboseli basin. Loitoktok has a bimodal rainfall pattern with the long rains falling between March and May and the short rains between October and December. High rainfall occurs around the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Chyulu hills. Other areas, especially the rangelands are characterized by lower rainfall. The October–December rainfall accounts for 45% and the March–May for 30% of the total rainfall. The temperatures in Loitoktok, like rainfall, also vary with altitude and season. The hottest temperatures of 30 ◦C have been recorded around Lake Amboseli and the lowest mean minimums of 10 ◦C are experienced on the eastern slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The coolest period is June–August and the hottest is September–February. The vegetation of the Amboseli plains is dominated by bushland and open grasslands (Acacia – commiphora mosaic). Swamps are found at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The vegetation composition has changed significantly over the last decade (Ntiati, 2002). Most of the woodland has been converted into marginal crop farming areas, swamps into irrigated land and grassland to bush land due to overgrazing and overstocking.
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