How Social Media changed a blind man’s fortunes

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The advent of social media such as twitter and Facebook has changed the way we communicate and interact. Through social media, communication is now instant and border-less and harnesses the power of collective action without the need to physically meet. This has also led to the democratization of information and interaction to the point where anyone is able to acquire the knowledge they may want and to connect to anyone he or she wishes to. This has had profound consequences in the way we live as humans today.

Allow me to exemplify the above fact with the story below as I digress from my normal “boring” technology posts.

The high school I attended used to be integrated, by that i mean there used to be both blind and perfect vision students in the same classes. in my year we had two blind students. One of the students was called Samuel Wambua. After high school we all went different ways and Wambua managed to secure admission to Kenyatta university for a degree in special education.

Late last year, I happen to spot Wambua standing at the junction of Muthithi road and Chiromo lane in westlands. with him was a small box crammed full of assorted items such as plastic necklaces, handkerchiefs, sweets and bangles. In the box was also a harmonica and a small radio which he said was for his entertainment. Wambua was a hawker. A  blind hawker. The fact that he was blind meant that he could not see that most of his merchandise was already old and dirty due to the months of handling for he rarely made any substantial sales.

After several meetings between him, Abel Masya and I at his hawking spot to fact find on what happened and how he can be helped, Wambua narrated how he dropped out of campus and resorted to hawking after failing to secure sponsorship for his education. He had completed two academic years with the second year fees being a loan he took from a friend. He was now hawking to repay the loan and raise money to go back to university. Considering it is not yesterday that we completed high school, Wambuas’ dream of going back to university was slowly dying. “I still believe i can go back” he said even though his tone betrayed the fact that he lost hope. He was now 34 years old, single, living alone in a single mabati room in Githurai. (How he manages to locate the Chiromo lane spot everyday from Githurai is beyond me)

As 2011 ended, a twitter hashtag #peopletobethankfulfor started trending then one person tweeted and said “#peopletobethankfulfor  the blind guy at the corner of Chiromo lane, he is always there come rain or shine”  That tweet was retweeted by Sunny Bindra. I replied and asked them to hear his story if they get time.

later, it dawned on me that Wambua, who does not even have the concept of social media or the internet for that matter just got mentioned on twitter because of his resilience. What if the same platform can be used to help him? So with the help of very resourceful people like Abel Masya and Mwema Mwalimu, started a campaign on twitter and Facebook to marshal friends and former classmates to return Wambua to university. A Samuel Wambua education fund  Facebook group was formed and people invited, tweets and twitter DM’s were exchanged and Mobile money transfer platforms were used to raise money for Wambua. Within two weeks friends responded overwhelmingly,  Fee’s for that semester was raised and paid, shopping for disposables and some clothes done, his braille machine repaired, braille paper rims bought and Wambua reported back to university to continue with his education. As I write this, Abel Masya (the ad hoc treasurer) has an appointment in Westlands to pick a bank deposit slip for 43,000/= from a well-wisher (the one whose tweet was re- tweeted by Sunny Bindra)  towards Wambua’s fees. The presiding priest Catholic church at KU also pledged 20,000/=  towards Wambua’s education.

When I visited Wambua in campus a few days ago, it was hard to explain to him how all this social media business works or how people tweeted and exchanged DM’s and formed a Facebook group about his education. “I think this is a miracle,” he said. Indeed, it’s the miracle of Social media to raise money and send him back to university without physically meeting to do so.

Friends and well-wishers are now organizing a fund raising meeting to raise the balance of the money needed to enable him complete his education. If you wish to assist in the organization or contribution, please contact me (me (at.) or our treasurer Abel Masya (abelmasya (at.) for further details. For those who have already made a contribution, thank you and God bless your efforts.

Update on Feb 2014

Wambua graduated with a 2nd upper class degree in December 2013 and is now working as a special teacher employed by TSC. Because he is physically challenged and employed as a special teacher, his salary is much higher than ordinary teacher and benefits are tax free.


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