Before this interview kicks off, Moses Kimenchu takes us through some video clips of individuals he has helped ditch alcohol. One of the stories that caught my attention was that of a lawyer who had turned to tea picking courtesy of his love for the bottle.
Kimenchu reveals that efforts to rehabilitate the young man bore fruits and went back to his job as a lawyer. “Alcohol has destroyed many people’s lives and broken many families,” Kimenchu says wistfully.
Kimenchu’s deep hatred for alcohol is evident in the way he speaks about it. A little prodding reveals where this hatred stems from.
“I lived with my grandmother when I was young. She used to brew chang’aa. It was a tradition for her to give me a little of the brew before she served her customers. This would make me tipsy but I was too young to understand,” he recounts his dalliance with alcohol.
During the same period, his uncle who was living in Mombasa returned home after losing his job courtesy of alcohol. Once at home and with free chang’aa within his reach, his uncle’s drinking habit got worse and he started mistreating young Kimenchu.
“He would get drunk and start beating me without any reason. And it didn’t stop there as he would sell some of my grandmother’s goats that I was tending and this would put me in trouble with my grandmother,” he explains.
When he couldn’t stomach the mistreatment any longer, Kimenchu went to stay with his parents. It was here that he was enrolled in school albeit late.
Life in school felt awkward especially since he was older than his classmates but his resilient spirit came in handy as he chose to concentrate on his studies rather than his age.
“The fact that I was much older and even bigger in size saw my teacher appoint me as the class prefect,” he notes adding that he honed his leadership skills in school.
Working as a cobbler…
Kimenchu did not do well in KCSE and he therefore retreated to his village in Tharaka Nithi where he started working as a cobbler.
Here, he once again witnessed people gobble down their hard-earned money in alcohol and he was touched; only he didn’t know how to help them.
“I worked as a cobbler for three years in Marimanti Shopping Centre and that’s where I developed friendship with the area District Commissioner (DC) who used to come for shoe polishing at my place. He was impressed by the fact that I was disciplined and diligent in my work,” says Kimenchu.
The DC was so impressed by Kimenchu’s discipline and focus that he asked him if he would be interested in joining the police force. Kimenchu admits he accepted the offer without a second thought. He went for recruitment exercise and he emerged as one of the best.
Joining the police force…
And so Kimenchu joined the Administration Police Training College (APTC) Embakasi in 2002. Even here, alcohol was a big problem.
“Some officers were being taken to rehabilitation centres as alcohol had taken a toll of them,” he says.
He knew he had to do something as this was the strongest indicator that alcohol was indeed an enemy of development.
“After I completed training, I went back to school to pursue a course in guidance and counselling as I wanted to help my colleagues as well as the community at large,” he says.
His first station of duty after completing the guidance and counselling course was in Murang’a County where alcohol had ravaged many young men and women.
“I made it my duty to approach alcohol addicts and talk them out of alcohol. Many were unknowingly already knee deep in it. Of course, it wasn’t easy reaching out to them but one by one they started abandoning alcohol. My colleagues, who had been watching from a distance, picked cue and started supporting me,” he says.
Kimenchu reveals that his inspiration stems from seeing individuals from different professions and all walks of life rehabilitated.
“I have saved lawyers, police officers, bankers, teachers, doctors and even students from alcoholism, which had turned them to zombies. I have so far managed to help at least 79 people to reform and some are back to their professions,” he says.
Kimenchu has taken the alcoholism battle to the doorstep of local primary schools so as to create awareness on the effects of alcoholism and drug abuse in the hope that these students will steer clear of it when they come of age.
How to tackle alcoholism…
“Alcohol and drug abuse should be treated as a national disaster. That way, we as a country will stand united against it.
Admittedly, there are good laws and policies that guide alcohol consumption but it is unfortunate that these are not implemented. There is need to devolve institutions such as National Council Against Drug Abuse (NACADA) to counties as well as in the sub counties,” he adds.
He points out that this will help in disseminating knowledge to the grassroots where alcoholism thrives unabated. He is also of the opinion that the war on alcoholism can be won if the root causes are addressed.
“Alcoholism can be as a result of personal factors such as stress and anxiety. It can also be as a result of lack of purpose in life, family problems, over-protection by parents, social factors and culture, among others. In helping an alcoholic to reform, it is imperative to know what led them to alcohol in the first place. As you seek to flush out alcohol from their system, also address the triggers,” he notes.
Kimenchu admits that the fight against drugs and alcohol abuse comes with its own challenges as some illicit alcohol brewers have been fighting back by threatening him. However, his resolve to free people from the chains of alcohol has seen him stand his ground and pursue his cause.
“There are people who earn a living through selling illicit alcohol so they aren’t happy with us and that has seen them fight back,” he reiterates.
He further notes that some people who have reformed look up to him for job placement, yet he is not in a position to help them on that front. He is thus reaching out to individuals and organisations to help him secure jobs for rehabilitated alcoholics to stop them from backtracking.
In this desert of alcoholism, he has an oasis in his wife who has been on the frontline cheering him and celebrating every milestone Kimenchu has achieved. His is a great testament of sacrifice as at times he is forced to dig into his pockets so as to achieve his goals.
“I set aside at least Ksh5,000 every month for the job as I have to travel and visit some of the patients who are spread all over the country,” he notes.
Kimenchu urges people with relatives who are drunkards to handle them with care since addiction is a disease that can easily be cured by bringing the addict closer rather than pushing them away and thereby deeper into alcoholism.
Kimenchu is willing to partner with organisations fighting the menace as he believes the situation can only be handled well when people join forces.
As we head to the general election, Kimenchu is urging young people to avoid indulging in drugs or alcohol as this may ruin their lives.
“Our politicians should refrain from buying alcohol for our young people since this may be seen as fun but in the real sense they are destroying their lives,” he concludes.