WAS BLIND, But now I can see

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Simon Njihia is a lesson in persistence. Born in a humble family, he had to toil to make ends meet. And just when things were looking up and he was settling down to enjoy life, a mysterious blindness struck him leaving him in a hopeless pit but God’s miracles prevailed. He shares with FAITH MURIGU how he has overcome the many hurdles that have threatened his life.

Simon Njihia, 30, was born and brought up in Nakuru. His parents purchased a piece of land in Kiambu and relocated there to do farming when Simon was still in his formative years. However, farming wasn’t rewarding for them and they relocated to Kibera in Nairobi to pursue business. By this time, Simon was in class six.

“My siblings and I enrolled at Toi Primary School in Kibera. Although it was difficult to get school fees, I still managed to sit for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and was admitted to Kiambu High School. Rasing school fees proved difficult for my parents and I had no choice than to work during the school holidays to supplement the little they could afford. I worked as a water vendor in Kibera and the money I made went to pay for my school fees, as well as supplement that of my siblings,” says Simon, the third born among eight siblings.

The weather at Kiambu High School proved problematic to Simon and he constantly had chest congestion. While in form three, he transferred to a school near their Kiambu home. He was made head boy as the teachers saw a sense of responsibility and leadership in him. In addition, he served in the Christian Union’s praise and worship department.

Making ends meet…

“Many residents in Kibera knew me and supported me by buying water from me. In the beginning I used a wheelbarrow to transport the water but later bought a cart (mkokoteni) when my clientele increased. By the time I was sitting for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) in 2000, I was determined to complete my secondary education without any fee arrears,” he explains.

After completing high school, Simon’s life didn’t get any easier as he had to work extra hard to raise money for his college education as well as pay school fees for his siblings. He also assisted in buying food for the family, which was no easy task. His determination to see his siblings get an education kept him focused unlike most of his peers who were lost in chang’aa dens.

“Frequent water shortages adversely affected my income and I eventually left that business and focused on clearing flying toilets in Kibera. By all means, this was a dirty business but I had no other option. From the income I made, I enrolled at the Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC), Nairobi, for a certificate course in medical laboratory,” says Simon.

“In 2002, I saw an advertisement in one of the local newspapers on a pending recruitment to the police force and applied for it. I got admission to the Recruit Training School in Eldoret for six months and was later posted to the department of defence in Nairobi. I worked there for sometime before been transferred to Forces Memorial Hospital, Nairobi. I pursued a laboratory technician diploma at the Memorial hospital, which was sponsored by the government. My life was turning up well and I was happy,” Simon narrates.

Struck by a strange blindness…

Simon married almost immediately after completing high school. He did not stay in the staff quarters at his work place but opted to commute home daily to his wife and their young son. He started a business for his wife, which was doing well. Two years into working at the Memorial Hospital, Simon woke up one day with a throbbing headache. He took some drugs to soothe the pain away but all in vain.

“I had several tests done at the hospital and was diagnosed with tapeworms. Although the doctor prescribed some drugs, which I took, the problem persisted. I went for more tests but there was no change. Then I started experienced sharp pain in my eyes and my vision became blurred. When I felt that things were getting out of hand, I sought a month’s leave from work to get more personalised medical attention,” he recalls.

“On the day I left work, I passed by my wife’s business and rested on a seat then dozed off. When I woke up, all I could see was darkness. My wife found this ridiculous since it was only four in the afternoon and it was still bright outside. It then dawned on me that I had lost my sight. I called my pastor and explained to him what had happened and he came over and we prayed. He told me that my condition was not treatable in hospital and that I needed to pray aggressively for healing. I did not understand his statement,” Simon recalls the shocking first moments of his long journey to the dark world.

“Although I went for many check ups at the Memorial Hospital the doctors couldn’t identify what the problem was. My leave came to an end but I could not report back to work. Instead, I sent my wife to the human resource manager to have my leave extended. It was a trying time for my family and me,” says Simon.

“My wife’s business was suffering as she spent a lot of time with me at the expense of the business but we hang on, hopeful that things would brighten up. I visited Kikuyu Eye Hospital in pursuit of specialised medical attention but they, too, could not identify what the problem was,” Simon explains the agonising journey he has walked.

Simon turned to God for mercy and grace. To escape from the pain and maybe appease God, he became a born-again Christian. Many people prayed with him for healing and restoration but nothing seemed to work and he almost gave up.

“I purposed to get serious with the things of God and desperately sought Him. Meanwhile, my employer had stopped paying my salary arguing that I had been out of work for a long period of time,” he adds.

“A prophet of God advised me to fully re-dedicate my life to God. Although at first I was at a loss to accept her advice, I still obliged. Miraculously, after a few days, my eyes began to see a beam of light and I knew I was regaining my sight. After a month, I could see blurred imaged of people. It was a slow process but I was hopeful. Within two months, I fully regained my sight,” says an elated Simon.

 Termination from employment…

Having regained his sight, Simon returned to work to find that his employment had been terminated. Efforts to plead to have his job back bore no fruits. He was told that absence from work for over one year warranted a dismissal. He could also not get his benefits. However, he persistently reported to the offices pleading that his case was a genuine one and needed to be reviewed. This cost him his freedom when he was locked up for one and a half months at the Department of Defence and charged with disturbance of peace.

“After serving my term, I dejectedly went back to my former life in Kibera.  It was demoralising but I kept hope alive,” Simon recalls the painful events he has gone through.

“While I was blind, I composed many songs but couldn’t release them due to financial constraints. I started a shoe business, which picked up well and I raised enough money to record my first music album Ihoya riakwa, which is a prayer to God asking him to heal me. Most of the songs in the album are a testimony of my life. I have released my second album: It’s over, which is a thanksgiving to God for helping me overcome storms in life. My music is played in several local radio stations, which I thank God for,” Simon says.

Simon has dedicated his life to serving God through music and says that it has been rewarding. He no longer lives in Kibera as God has promoted him. He is grateful to his wife and his two sons for standing with him through thick and thin. Simon advises young people to work hard and not be selective in their job choices because one can start small but that does not necessarily mean that they will remain there forever.

“Even the bible says that whatever one finds to do with their hands, they should do it well and unto the Lord. Just acknowledge God in your life and don’t give up,” he says in conclusion.

Published on April 2013

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