Kenyan disabled man raises money, awareness

Most people equate being strong with being able-bodied. But every day, men and women with physical disabilities are testing the limits of the human body, sometimes to raise awareness for causes that affect millions. One man following this path is 43-year-old, Kenya-native Zackary Kimotho, who recently completed a journey by wheelchair. He embarked with hopes of raising money for a spinal rehabilitation center in Nairobi.

Kimotho lost his ability to walk after being shot in the spine by thugs during a carjacking in 2004.

“I still do not understand why they shot me,” he recalls on his personal website. “There was no struggle and I didn’t defy their orders.” Since that day, the former veterinarian has never lost hope when it comes to regaining his ability to walk, even while knowing the nearest spinal rehabilitation center was located in South Africa, over 2,500 miles away from Nairobi.

This year, he decided to set out on a grueling journey to get the help he needed. This was not only to seek treatment, but to also increase awareness about the lack of a center in his hometown of Nairobi. Along the way, he worked to raise money that could go towards building this center.

The success of this endeavor, however, was greater than anything Kimotho had ever envisioned. He had traveled just over 50 miles when rolling into Tanzania and, already, his efforts had raised almost 73 million shillings ($900,000). That amount of money was enough to begin the construction of a spinal rehab center in Nairobi this month.

Spinal injuries are commonplace in Kenya as a result of gang violence and more support centers have been needed for years. According to Kenya Paraplegic Organization Board of Trustee Chairman, Peter Arina, Kimotho’s efforts have helped bring that need to an international audience.

“Zack is the personality that we used to embody the trauma of spinal cord injury in Kenya,” he told The Star newspaper. “This campaign has managed to create awareness both locally and internationally.”

According to Katerina Marks, a young Georgia woman who has spent a majority of her life in a wheelchair, this story is one that resonates with many who suffer a paralytic injury.

“This mindset, for a while, pushed me to take greater risks to prove myself to others,” Marks said to The Guilfordian about her experience. “I’m realizing as I get older that I take risks more for myself than others. In doing things with this mindset, I’ve found it not only impacts my life, it inspires those around me, friends and even strangers, to do and be more.”

Both this brave young woman and Kimotho have proven that just because life has forced them to take a seat, nothing has to stop them from standing for something.