Eliud Nyoike [Photo: Harun Wathari]

Looking for a lost key in Nakuru's vast Bondeni Estate is like searching for a needle in a haystack.

So whenever they lock themselves out of their houses, residents of the estate do not bother searching for the keys.

Instead they search for Eliud Nyoike, "The locks man," a one-armed locksmith who is a living proof that disability is not inability.

Watching him at work is an inspiring experience.

Nyoike was born with one arm. But using his right arm and left foot, he can make a duplicate key to even the most stubborn lock in town.

Today, Nyoike literally holds the keys to Bondeni estate.

“I consider my left foot as my left hand when I work. Being born with only one hand never stops me from doing whatever task is before me,” says Nyoike.

Eliud Nyoike [Photo: Harun Wathari]

The father of two considers himself one of the very few persons living with disabilities in Nakuru town who have never gone to the streets to beg. For a town that attracts beggars from as far away as Tanzania, this is one bright feather on his cap.

“I am a believer in hard work to get what I need. Being born with one arm has never stopped me from earning a living,” he says.

After completing school in the 1990s, Nyoike first tried his luck in tailoring but could neither secure a job nor afford a sewing machine to start his own tailoring shop.

Jobless, he retreated back to the sprawling Bondeni slums, where he met two men who introduced him to the locksmith trade in 1996.

The two locksmiths offered to teach him their art. He started by learning how to dismantle his own padlock and put it back together after carefully observing his mentors at work.

“At first, it was challenging, and I ended up hitting my foot with a hammer several times,” he recounts.

After perfecting his skills and developing rapport with the clients, Nyoike eventually set up his workshop opposite Bondeni police station.

The workshop has been up and running for 23 years now. Depending on the type of padlock or door lock a client takes to him, he charges between Sh50 and Sh500.

Eliud Nyoike [Photo: Harun Wathari]

On a good day, he can take home up to Sh3,000.

"This is rare, it only happens when I get a complicated lock to repair," he says.

While many clients might be wary of a man that can duplicate their keys within minutes, Nyoike has managed to duplicate one attribute in his workshop; trust.

“It is this dependability that has made me win the hearts of the people. They always come back for more services and refer other clients to me,” he says.

Nyoike has since expanded his business to include sale of different types of locks, which add to his income. His dream is to one day own a modern key-cutting machine to make his work easier.

To the disabled, Nyoike has one message: Disability is a state of mind. 

“If I chose to be a beggar I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t be having my own family and would be surviving on begging," he says.