World Health Organization defines Epilepsy as a chronic noncommunicable disease of the brain which is characterized by recurrent seizures, which are brief episodes of involuntary movement that may involve a part of the body (partial) or the entire body (generalized) and are sometimes accompanied by loss of consciousness and control of bowel or bladder function.
Despite the disability’s impact on human life, a 23 year-old Edward Okumu from Rongo Subcounty is skillful and brilliant at making automotive toys from scrap metals.
Okumu has never been enslaved by the disability right from his primary school level and, has never looked back.
Before being aware of the limitations the disability came along with, Okumu’s number one priority was to chase his childhood dream and passion of becoming an engineer.
He was forced to drop out of school because his health condition became a threat to his fellow students, completely defining his life destiny of initiating a vibrant automotive toy industry to the chagrin of his village and far-flung population.
“My epileptic condition started soon when I joined class five and worsened when I was in form two at Arundo secondary school in Rongo Sub County, making it difficult for me to continue with my education”, noted Okumu.
Although the dream of becoming an engineer faded when he dropped from school seven years ago, Okumu has been engaging his talent through toy making at their village in North Kanya-Juok ward, Rongo Sub-County.
“I will never allow this disease to deter me from accomplishing my inborn desire to make toys for the kids. I feel very proud when I see children happily playing with the toys I make”, says the visibly polite and happy man.
Nobody taught him how to make toys but acknowledges that it is a gift from God. Okumu also notes that the little knowledge he got from his physics class helped him to polish his talent.
“I loved seeing how car engines worked something that excited me to venture more and understand how I can improve my toy creation”, affirmed Okumu.
Materials used to make Okumu’s locomotive toys like old motors, batteries, and copper wires are obtained from car and motorbike garages with as little as 100 shillings. The toys are made from available plastics, metals, and wood gotten from their homestead.
He acknowledges that the toys sometimes earn him cash and fame from the onlookers who are amazed at his creativity and artistic work whenever he visits their market.
Though he has not gone full hog to look for helpers to achieve his life dream, Okumu notes that he is still optimistic that one day somebody will help him reach his dream of becoming a mechanical engineer.
Okumu’s mother Joyce Atieno says that the talent of his son started when he was age three. He was very creative with gadgets and he used to make toys for his sisters and brothers who were older than him.
The mother of five explained that his son has the capacity to do great things if he can be supported and guided. She, however, lamented that people come to her homestead to watch what her son does but no progress business-wise has been achieved to date .
Atieno disclosed that the family has always encouraged Okumu to not only make automotive toys but also to educate the society that disability is not inability.
He called upon well-wishers to assist his son find market for the toys, saying that Okumu does not make any meaningful income out of his industry apart from a few coins from neighbours that buy toys for their children.
“I will have to register my son with the People Living with Epilepsy by the National Council for the People with Disabilities in order to get the best assistance he requires”, disclosed Atieno.
Epilepsy distorts brain activity, causing seizures or periods of unusual behaviour, sensations, and sometimes loss of awareness.
According to the Kenya National Epilepsy Coordination Committee report of 2020, close to one million people live with the disease, and two of every 100 epileptics do not get to see a doctor due to lack of knowledge about the disease.
International Epilepsy Day is celebrated during the month of February and is a yearly event with the aim to promote awareness of epilepsy around the world.