By Nigel Nassar
Kenneth Edmund Mugayehwenkyi, the founder and executive director of Reach One Touch One Ministries (ROTOM), has been walking for a week now, in a bid to raise awareness about the plight of the elderly, a demographic ROTOM takes care of.
And as you read this, the 45-year-old is out there walking, herder’s stick in hand, and a backpack containing first aid kit in tow.
The scheduled 400km walk from Kabale to Mukono district, which kicked off last Saturday September 28, has picked pace as you read this.
By the morning of Wednesday October 2, the walk, in its fifth day, had already hit Mbarara district. Not just in the news bulletins of the local radio and television stations like Radio West and TV West, who have covered a part of the walk.
Rather, the walking man, as the highway people here are referring to him, made it to Mbarara municipality.
Well, that was a little ahead of schedule, as All Saints Church, Mbarara, had on the previous day tasked him and his followers to attend Wednesday morning mass at the church, and pick up blessings for the elderly, as well as the walk.
And since it is the blessings that will get people contributing to equip ROTOM’s health centres dedicated to the elderly, the walking man had walked on past schedule just to make the appointment.
Thank God the family of Robert and Loyce Mugabe in Mbarara town offered him and the team impromptu accommodation and meals overnight, which enabled him make the 6:00am Wednesday morning appointment Mbarara.
Who gives people 6:00am appointments? Well, that’s a new one in Uganda. That aside, the 6:00am appointment won the team lots of blessings, and sh27,000 collected from the church.
So, with the walking man now in Biharwe, Mbarara, he has already covered 117kms, accompanied by 13 other people: myself, two grannies that his organization takes care of, two grandchildren of senior citizens under the organization, a grandfather, a widow, a volunteer, and six ROTOM staff members who chose to walk with their boss.
The six are: ROTOM nurse Lydia Naggujja, who is being chauffeured in a car that’s trailing us in case of any emergencies, logistics assistant Jeremiah Nyabenda, who is behind the steering wheel of the car carrying supplies and the nurse, programme manager Kabale area, Erican Turyahama, ROTOM evangelist Innocent Mubangizi, ROTOM apprenticeship instructor Hezekiah Niyinkunda, and Linda Hallet, who is based at ROTOM Canada, and helps mobilize funding around the world.
There is still a long way to go, but the spirit to march on is high. GRAPHIC ILLUSTRATION/Brian Sekamate
With Tuesday’s walk having put us ahead of schedule as well as bogged us down, the team has decided to go easy on today’s (Wednesday October 2).
I mean, the walking man, and most of us on the team, woke up with sore feet today. But nurse Lydia came in handy with a much-needed massage that sorted each of us out.
And oh, there was the incident with my sneakers too; whose sole just ripped off mid way the tough walk, 23kms.
Interestingly though, 23kms isn’t the longest we have done so far. We did 41kms from Muhanga in Kabale to Ntungamo on the first day, which was way ahead of schedule too, prompted by the need to catch Sunday morning prayers the following day at All Saints, Ntungamo, whose congregation prayed for us, and collected for us sh50,000. Again thanks to Global High School for giving us free accommodation that made us us meet this church appointment.
Back to the journeys, even the second day’s walk was longer, as we made 26km, under the rain. So, Tuesday’s 23km-walk, which wore us out leaps and bounds, definitely just fluked us, as we had been accumulating our fatigue from before.
So today we are taking things easy. As a matter of fact, we are already done for the day, and are relaxing at Igongo Cultural Centre, 15kms from Mbarara town. We are to spend the night here, as the centre’s boss, James Tumusiime, has offered us free accommodation.
The serene environment here is a big contrast from anything we have seen on our five-day walk so far, and is a real calming effect. So much so, we might even consider taking a leisurely walk around the locality, known as Biharwe, a historical hub of most of Ankole’s traditions.
So far, the walk is good, and it looks like we are to be done in a heartbeat, as there are a lot of amazing people on the way willing to help us, especially with accommodation, which we don’t have planned anywhere but just falls like manna.
Just like the other day when we were almost stranded, Kabale area programme manager Erican Turyahama just called Child Development Centre at Kinoni and they took us in, just like that.
It’s amazing how nice people are being towards us, which is actually saving us loads of money we would otherwise spend in accommodation and meals for all the 14 people.
Tomorrow, Thursday October 3, we hit the road early in the morning, and expect to spend a night around Sanga. That’s 20kms from Igongo Cultural Centre, our current point.
So, see you on the road. And feel free to join us, or bring something for the elderly, some of whom on the road with us. Just look out for red caps, a ROTOM banner and white t-shirts.
Watch out for more updates.
Walking 400km for the love of the elderly
Day Four: Walk for the elderly