Where hands fail, positivity triumphs
Tuesday, January 19th, 2021
Alphun Oenga was born with a congenital hand disorder, but his go-getter attitude has made him overcome challenges that came with it.
For any person living with a disability, life may seem bleak when the thought of a ‘normal’ life is not possible.
However, with a hopeful attitude and positivism, no matter the disability, one can choose to make their life bright.
For Alphun Machogu Oenga, 24, it’s been a deep emotional journey. But as years pass by, he has learnt to accept himself and see his disability as a strength.
Alphun, the second born in a family of five was born with a congenital hand disorder. Medically, the condition is referred to as clinodactyly.
“I was born with four bent or curved fingers in each hand. I am left handed since the hand deformity really affected my right hand, which is unable to hold even small objects.
It is really weak. I hold a pen though in a struggling manner,” says Alphun.
According to Alphun who hails from Maili Mbili village in Kiogoro division of Kisii county, when he was born with the condition, his parents felt the pain, anger and even guilt.
“My mother narrated to me how they felt angry and asked themselves so many questions.
Somehow, they had to cope with their feelings and raise me up in the best way they could,” he says.
At that time, his father was a cook in a college before he advanced to be a driver while his mother was a housewife. Sadly, Alphun lost his father in 2012 due to heart failure.
“The death of my father was a big blow to my family. We were still young and my mother had to struggle to make ends meet. She had to look for casual jobs to ensure that we did not lack food,” he explains.
Despite his condition, Alphun did not relent on his pursuit of education.
He offers: “Unlike other normal children, it took me quite a long time to be able to write.
It is the reason I spent four years in nursery school. But I am grateful to my teacher Jane Mokora who was patient with me and tried all means to ensure that I could write like any other child with my left hand.”
Alphun attended Nyamage Nursery School and later joined Nyamage Primary School and Rehema Academy, both in Kisii county.
“I sat for my Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams in 2012 earning admission to Nyambaria High School, a natonal school in Nyamira county.
Since my mother was unable to raise school fees, villagers organised a funds drive so that I could join that prestigious national school.
There are many people who took part in it to ensure that I remained in school and up to this date, I am grateful to them,” he explains.
Stigma and discrimination
In 2016, he sat for his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams and obtained a mean grade of B+ (plu)s that saw him gain admission at Egerton University (Njoro campus) where he is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Education Science (Mathematics/Chemistry).
He is in his third year of study and looking forward to complete his degree.
“I am confident to say that I’m under the care of my beloved mum, but as a determined youth, I also hustle to supplement what mum gives me.
During school holidays, I offer tuition services to the locals. When schools closed due to coronavirus pandemic, my services were in demand. I also practice smallscall farming,” he says.
While in school, Alphun says he has faced a number of challenges due to his disability.
“I face a lot of stigma and discrimination, especially from women. But I am grateful to my fellow male colleagues who have been there and supported me all through despite my condition.
Sometimes I tend to shy away and put my hands in my pockets so as to hide my fingers.
I appreciate the Egerton University Disability and Mainstreaming department that has made me aware of my rights and enabled me to remain confident always,” he says.
According to Alphun, he always desired to be a teacher and is happy that he is pursuing his dream career.
“I confidently felt that it is a career I can deliver exceptional results now that I am able to write.
Through teaching, I believe I can reach out and mentor many students in their career paths and help them know that in life, everything is possible despite the challenges people are born with,” he says.
Alphun is grateful to his community for their support.
“I will always be in the front line to inspire people living with disability. My future plan is to become a Disability Awareness Tutor in Kenya so as to cater for the needs of both the physically and mentally challenged,” says Alphun.
He is currently dating and engaged to his close friend Mourine Monyangi, whom he says has loved and supported him despite his disability.
His advice to any person living with a disability is: “Take everything as normal. Feel comfortable with life and strive to be excellent in everything you do.”