Today on Man Around Town we feature Brian Muchiri Waihenya who some of you might know because he writes some of the funniest short stories on this blog. Also some sobering reads in his column From Stairs To Ramps about the joys and challenges of persons with disabilities face.
This is how he introduces himself. “My name is Brian Muchiri. I am a young man who loves and appreciates life and all the gifts it has to offer. I am adventurous and open-minded about growing as a person and eventually becoming the best version of myself. I reside in Nakuru where I live with my parents and my two younger brothers. I am a disabled man, I got paralyzed after a road accident seven years ago.
I am a writer. I write for the Potentash blog. I specialise in short stories of humourous nature but I also do interviews, reviews and write pieces that create awareness about disability and highlight the issues that affect our disabled community.
Besides writing for the Potentash blog, I am also a writer for Love Matters Kenya which is an incredibly candid and informative program that tackles issues revolving around love, relationships and sex. Whilst I give my two cents about how these topics relate to a disabled person, I also commentate on general issues in opinion based articles.
I work as a consultant with INable, which is a global company that regulates and advocates for website accessibility for disabled people.
I am the founder of Strong Spine which is a non-profit organisation that promotes inclusion and equality of disabled people through empowerment and creating accurate awareness. As a disabled man myself, I take pride in being a leader in my community and having a platform where I am able to reach out to many people and change their perceptions about disability. I am also keen to impact the lives of my community by opening their eyes and minds to all the endless possibilities that exist in our world despite the limitations we might face.
Strong Spine has been involved in a number of successful campaigns in the past which have been instrumental in achieving our goal of empowering disabled people in our community. Through referrals and recommendations from our friends and supporters, Strong Spine is able to identify individuals in vulnerable situations who will benefit most from our support. Strong Spine has, and continues to raise money for wheelchairs which we procure in partnership with APDK (Association For People With Disabilities In Kenya). Our biggest project yet was the house building project whereby we built a disabled young man in Njoro a house. Why I Started The Strong Spine Foundation To Assist People With Disabilities
Our core values are to create awareness about disability issues that are often not spoken about. The adult diaper initiative came about in the year 2019, its focus being to shed a light on the inaccessibility of adult diapers for most disabled people. It was geared to be an annual event with the first edition raising close to a hundred thousand shillings to buy and supply diapers. The Covid pandemic interrupted our operations but this year we hope to conduct yet another adult diaper initiative to keep the conversation alive while being present for our peers who struggle to access this important part of our lives. From Stairs To Ramps: Strong Spine & Why We Need To Join Together To Change The Lives Of Persons With Disabilities
- Are you driven by passion or purpose or both? What drives you?
I am driven by a little bit of both. My passions and purpose have a lot in common because they all serve to get me to the end goal which is self-fulfilment and actualization. My passion for writing and creating meaningful content is the platform on which I will use to achieve my purpose. I believe that I was put on this earth to change opinions about disability and leave behind a lasting impression that will not only influence those around me, but also generations to come.
- What did you want to be when you grew up? Tell us about your background and how it shaped you into the person you are now.
For most of my life, I grew up in the village side of Nakuru. My grandfather was a blessed businessman. He owned a fleet of buses and a successful pig farm but somehow all his businesses came crushing down over time. My father worked in my grandfather’s estate so we struggled at some point to find our bearing as a family but eventually made it work. We always had enough and we grew up together with our cousins and grandparents. It was in many ways the perfect childhood.
I have always known I had a gift for writing. It manifested itself when I was in primary school and the teachers would make comments about how good my work was. But coming from high school I had dreams of joining the army. The idea of being in uniform and serving my country for the greater good was always so attractive to me. I definitely wanted to serve either in the marine or airforce.
After the accident joining the army didn’t seem like a logical career path so for some time I was lost and unsure about what I wanted to do with my life. At this point, I wasn’t writing anymore because I had lost most of my motivation.
I was inspired to get back into writing by my cousin and that is how I started writing on Facebook. I have always wanted to make people happy with my content so in the beginning, I wrote humorous stories about everyday issues. Later on, I started getting more comfortable about writing about my own life and struggles with disability. About four years later, I still find it rewarding and fulfilling to educate people about disability issues and to inspire people too.
- If you had a chance for a do-over, what would you do differently in your life or career?
If I had a chance to do life over I would enrol in the army immediately after high school, I would start journaling as early as possible as preparation for writing a book based on my life. I would marry young like my parents did and have four children.
I would work on improving myself as a person so that the opinions and actions of people would no longer affect me and finally I would invest a lot in physical fitness and health.
Being disabled, I have learnt the worth and importance of being in good health and the difference it makes in the life of a person.
- What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your job?
As a writer, the three top skills you need to possess are consistency in generating ideas and putting them down on paper, researching and observing how the world is changing and consuming content in order to adjust appropriately to your readers’ needs.
Ethics and honesty in your work because words have the power to make or break and hence, you always have to be responsible enough so that people always deserve the unadulterated truth.
- What motivates you to keep going?
I am motivated by the belief that if I continue pressing on, my dreams will come true. Some of the things I used to dream about five years ago are a reality today so I am more motivated to keep on living and keep on working on myself because the sky is truly the limit.
My family is also another big source of motivation for me. We have come a long way together and seeing our progress gives me strength.
- How do you define success?
Success to me is being able to fulfil the purpose that you were put in this world to do. Success is peace, good health and having people who truly care for you and love you. Financial stability is great as well.
- What makes you happy and gives you have the energy to face the day?
I listen to music every day at all times. I find it very calming and I often find myself running towards it for comfort and peace.
I like being out and interacting with new people. I have found that meaningful interactions shape a person and force you to challenge certain aspects of your own life.
- Advice for newbies in your line of work?
Study how those who came before you worked, open your mind to criticism but also be very confident in your craft and what you bring to the table.
- What do you want your legacy to be?
I want to be remembered as someone who lived well for himself and for others. Someone who made a significant contribution to the lives of those he interacted with, a giver, a friend and simply as a vulnerable man who didn’t have the answers but lived life the best way he knew how.
- Where do you see yourself in around 10 years?
I see myself being better physically, mentally and spiritually. I will at the mastery level of my craft. I want to write a book that I am proud of at some point. I also want to travel a little more around our beautiful country and beyond.
Listen to his interview on Legally Clueless – Brian Waihenya.
Here are some of his stories you should check out.
Check out Brian’s column From Stairs To Ramps here.