In 2021 L’Arche Kenya organized the second Stretching our limits campaign dubbed #PedalForHealth. It involved various cycling activities. The objective of the campaign was to reconnect with old and make new friends and to raise funds to cater for the medical needs of people with disabilities, to set up a fitness centre for adults and children with disabilities, and to make L’Arche Kenya’s premises and means of transport more accessible to people with disabilities.
From the launch of the Stretching Our Limits 2021 in June, I felt the need to have a personal project within the overall objective. I gave myself a target to cycle at least 1,000km in three months with a desire to raise Kes.100,000 in order to help my friend Gathoni, a core-member of L’Arche Kenya, to acquire an oxygen concentrator. Because I still had carry out my roles as the community leader, I cycled mostly on the weekends and invited my friends to sponsor me with Kes. 100 for every kilometer I covered. In less than two months I had received enough funds to buy the oxygen concentrator and by the end of the campaign which was marked by the grand cycle of 200kms in one day, from Nairobi to Nyahururu, on the 18th of September 2021, I had received contributions of close to Kes. 250,000 in total.
When the 2021 #PedalForHealth campaign began, I simply wanted to do something good for my friend Gathoni, but as I continued to cycle, the whole campaign turned into a very deep spiritual experience for me. It was a moment to re-connect with and to invite my friends to a special mission. It was a time to inspire others; friends, colleagues, and strangers, to a mission that was bigger than them. Covid-19 had pushed people to close up into themselves and only think about their well-being, so this was a special vocation to call people out of themselves, to work together and to do something good for a brother or sister.
This mission wasn’t going to be easy. There were moments when it became very challenging on the road on my bike. There were days when I cycled against strong winds, in the rains, under very hot sun and even my bike broke down. Some days I met motorists who weren’t very kind to us on our busy roads. Other days I just didn’t have the energy to push up the hills. On some rides with my L’Arche Kenya team mates, I could be left behind by a number of kilometers, like the day of the main trip from Nairobi to Nyahururu. In such moments, I chose to remain with me and to reflect more on my being and my mission in life. I also got the rare opportunity to touch my limits and to reconnect with my God. Somehow in those moments I had a deep conviction that only God could grant me the grace and the strength I needed for the journey I had committed to do.
The campaign also gave me an opportunity to connect with and to give thanks for the beautiful nature: the beautiful trees along the roads, the wind, the sun, the rain, the cool breeze in the early morning and late evening rides. I also become much more aware and attentive to my body. I got to know and to appreciate myself more; I knew when I was tired and I knew when I needed to stop and I also knew when I had the energy to push further. I learnt how to be gentle to myself and to others in the team.
All through the campaign I carried my friend Gathoni in my heart and I felt so united with her in spirit and especially in moments when I too, just like her, struggled to breathe while going through the tough terrains of Nyandarua, Nakuru and Likipia counties. In my silence I whispered to myself, “Maurice, it’s ok to lose your breath if it is the only way to give your friend breath”.
The purchase of the oxygen concentrator gave my friend Gathoni a new lease of life and also improved in a big way her quality of life. With this machine, Gathoni has been able to live a normal life and even travel to places she couldn’t before, without her care givers worrying about what would happen when her oxygen levels go down. With the help of L’Arche Kenya’s leather workshop team, we made a nice case for the machine which makes it look like just an ordinary suitcase whenever Gathoni travels. Before we got the oxygen concentrator, Gathoni used oxygen cylinders which were very expensive to buy and refill and at the same time scary to the people who encountered her in her journeys. I remember there were times when we were invited to places as a community, but we were afraid to go with Gathoni keeping in mind that even without such medical equipment our community members have in the past been denied entry to some facilities just because we had a person with a disability among us, so we feared what would happen if we also checked in with Oxygen cylinders.
I am not sure if my friends who contributed Kes.100 for every kilometer I cycled knew what their little contribution meant to me and to my friends with disabilities at L’Arche Kenya. I am not sure they understood that just by that simple act, they were saving somebody’s life!
THANK YOU FOR HELPING MY FRIEND GATHONI TO BREATHE.
A member of L’Arche Kenya.