Their generosity lessens pain during times of suffering

John Apollo, founder of a volunteer group, Invisible Hands. James Omoro/Standard]

Amidst the messages of doom that have defined the coronavirus pandemic, there are people who have stood up to help humanity.

They have sacrificed their time, money and resources to help other people in need. The Sunday Standard recognises some of the people who have stood out in their actions to support others.  

Feeding the hungry

When the 7pm curfew was enforced, street children had to relocate from Nakuru town to the outskirts to reduce congestion and avoid police brutality.

Over 150 street children found themselves on a deserted field near Bondeni. The cold nights and uncertainty after everyone had retreated to their homes were scary.

One of the churches, Saint Egidio Christian, stepped in to give them food and a place to sleep. Charles Opiyo, who takes care of the street children, said they provide food for about 200 homeless people. They are assured of eating three meals a week.

“The community has been visiting us on three times a week, and brings us food. We have water provided by the county that we use to wash our hands. It is a good gesture and a sign that we are not forgotten,” Opiyo said.

The community’s organising secretary, Lucas Onno, said they prepare food themselves and receive money from donors and in-house contributions.

In Kisumu, philanthropist Davis Okombo has won the hearts of many residents of Manyatta slum by feeding the vulnerable.

Mr Okombo, the director of Uhuru Community Development Project (UCDP), distributed food to over 200 families after their livelihoods were disrupted.

He distributed more than 1,000kg of rice, green grams, sugar, soap and sanitisers to the residents of Manyatta. The programmes will run for the next six months.

John Apollo, a boda boda rider in Homa Bay County, also showed rare generosity by doing deliveries for free.

Through his group -- Invisible Hands, he is offering the free services through an initiative christened ‘Stay at Home’ where residents simply dial a number 0728399134 or 0786425557 and their items are bought and delivered to their door steps.

“What one needs to do is to pay through M-Pesa, then call us to collect and deliver the goods. It is a free service as our contribution to the fight against the virus,” Apollo said.

Landlords forego rent

Staying at home is almost impossible for the traders as they have rent to pay even as their businesses remain closed. Having observed this, William Mureithi, a Nakuru businessman who owns a commercial building in the town, knew he had to help his 50-odd tenants.

“With the end of this disaster still unknown, it means rent will eat into their profits and stock,” Mureithi said.

The former high school teacher sacrifices his rental income to save his clientele, among them a bank, sacco, law firms, a college, real estate and insurance companies, an adult education centre and business stalls.

His story is like that of Michael Munene on Nyandarua, who’s 34 tenants will not pay their rent for March and April. Having been locked of his rented house once, he understands the pain of tents. “They have been my tenants for a while and the rent they pay has helped me do a lot of things,” he said.

In Kiambu, James Karanja, a landlord who is also in construction business, heeded the call and reduced the rent by half.

“I am human and for the last few days, nobody has come to my yard to enquire about construction materials. I figured out it is the same for everyone,” Karanja said.

His tenants in Mugumo Estate and Indian Bazaar in Kiambu were elated when they received text messages on Wednesday night, telling them that they will half the rent next month.

One tenant, Margarate Wambui, was excited: “I am a mother of three. I sell tomatoes and onions in Kiambu to pay fees for my three children who are in high school. Now that rent has been reduced, I expect Kiambu Governor James Nyoro to exempt traders like me from paying tax.”

The flat in Mugumo Estate has 20 tenants who pay Sh15,000 each for a two-bedroom house and Sh10,000 for a one-bedroom house.

Police officer goes gentle on the public

Ibrahim Abachila, a police officer in Kabarnet town, chose a different means of enforcing curfew. Instead of arming himself with a whip, he armed himself with a mask and sanitiser.

Motorists who landed in the arms of the Baringo Central sub-County Administration Police Commander were lucky. The officer, while offering the motorists sanitiser, advised them to obey the curfew rules.

“Don’t be late again, pick your luggage and go home,” the officer was heard saying in a video clip.

Matatu operators were also asked to ensure they have hand sanitisers in their vehicles as the country fights the spread of the virus.

Mr Abachila, when contacted, said he was employed by the people and was serving them well.

He said he treated them as his parents, brothers and sisters.

Standing up for the disabled

Martin Njoroge, a hearing-impaired teacher who runs a sign-language school, came up with sessions to educate the deaf about coronavirus. The reports of the pandemic shook the globe, but it was all a silent world for his peers.

“It was scary. Little information was coming through and I imagined the fear of my fellows too. It was all silent and I had to inform my deaf colleagues,” Njoroge said.

From his online search, he perused through the World Federation of the Deaf and got the new sign for the virus. He read through precautions and went straight to record a sign language video giving details on the virus.

“Being a sign language teacher, I’m connected to many of my students through social media. All I did was share updates and videos and addressed their questions. It worked. The panic was reduced because they now knew the precautions to take,” he said.

On Facebook and WhatsApp, he informs his contacts of the latest developments, precautions and all the information he feels his peers need to know.

“Communication barrier is the biggest challenge and some families of deaf people even find it hard to communicate with them.

“Most of the time, it is all a silent world and I thought sharing the video could even help these families to pass the message while also saving the lives of the deaf,” Njoroge said. 

[Report by Daniel Chege, Caroline Chebet, Kenedy Gachuhi, Julius Chepkwony, Fidelis Kabunyi and Mactilda Mbenywe]


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