Kenyan Zack Kimotho is making a 4,000 kilometer trek by wheelchair from Nairobi to the nearest spinal rehabilitation center, which is in South Africa. But he said the longest journey of his life – or at least what felt like it – was the ride from the roadside where he had been shot during an attempted carjacking to a hospital in Nairobi.
“That was the longest journey I had ever taken,” he said.
Now Kimotho has a new journey. He’s trying to raise the $2.9 million needed to build a spinal chord injury rehab center by wheeling himself halfway across Africa. He chose South Africa as his destination, because that is where the nearest center is located.
“I’m on the road wheeling myself,” he said. “The whole idea here is if Kenyans can help me raise 250 million [Kenyan Shillings], I’ll come back , because at the point that we have reached our target… and we’ll start building our own rehab, because there won’t be a need for me to go to South Africa.”
He added their main goal is for Kenyans to make donations using their mobile phones. He and the Kenyan Parapalegic Organization have currently raised 40 million Kenyan shillings, or almost $500,000, since beginning his journey on June 9. So far, he has travelled 78 kilometers.
“I want to help people who are in a similar condition as I am,” he said.
Kimotho, who is a widower and father of one, said one of the hardest parts of being confined to his wheelchair was arriving home after three months in the hospital. “You are told to go home. You’re isolated, and that’s it. You are forgotten,” he said.
He said a rehabilitiation center would help both the injured and their families learn how to better cope with the special needs of a parapelegic’s lifestyle.
“People don’t know what to do with you,” he said. “They see someone in a wheelchair, and they look at you twice and start conversing in low tones. It's something people need to be aware of – that anybody can get into a wheelchair – it doesn’t matter who you are. I think this lack of awareness is there.”
According to the Kenyan government, there are more than 15,000 people who suffer spinal-chord injuries from accidents on the road each year.