Henry Simiyu, 54, a resident of Mungakha Village in the Navakholo Constituency of Kakamega County, is a devastated man following a mysterious tragedy that caused him permanent blindness.
A father of six, married for 40 years and once the soul breadwinner of his family, Mr. Simiyu recounts the dreadful day that saw the collapse of his career in construction and the beginning of his misery as a hopeless, blind man.
Normally, at 10 am, you would find him basking in the sun, but today he is still in the house. His wife, Alice Simiyu, has gone to fetch water.
Alice walks in carrying a 20-liter jerrican on her head, and upon seeing us, her faint smile fails to hide her wrinkled face. Her torn and patched white blouse and black skirt vividly tell us what they are going through as a family.
She lowers her jerrycan and pushes a rectangular structure made of old and worn-out iron sheets joined by tree branches, a door.
There are only two chairs in the living room, one of which is being used by Henry.
Our voices attract him. He immediately gets up and stretches out his hand to greet us.
“Welcome,” he says.
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Alice leaves and returns with a 20-liter jerrican, which she hands over to me to use as a chair.
We introduce ourselves as journalists and sit down.
My thoughts are carried away by the look of things in this house: 2016 and 2017 calendars pitched on the dried mud walls, a chicken nest next to where he sits and the floor made of compacted soil coated cow dung.
“Life is difficult, my brothers,” he says, scattering my thoughts, “I used to be among the biggest contractors in the country before I woke up one day and found myself blind.”
Silence reigns. From afar, I can hear the chirping of birds, the mowing of cows, and the clacking of mother hen.
“I have worked locally and abroad. In the country, I have overseen the construction of various schools, including St. Kizito High School, Mungaka and Namirama, among others.”
“My life was sweet. Whenever I wanted to eat meat, I would even do it seven days a week. My children’s school fees were paid on time, as opposed to now, when my wife is forced to use cheap labor to get food. At that time, she used to feel like a queen,” he says, almost to tears.
His words overwhelm Alice, who lets tears flow freely down her face.
The dead cat at the site
“One day, while I was here at home, I received a phone call from one of my men, he said something unusual had happened at work. At that time, I was overseeing the construction of St. Kizito’s Girls High School,” he continues.
Alice returns shortly, carrying a jug and four cups. He pours tea in each cup and asks us to feel warm.
“When I got to school,” Henry continues, “I was stunned to see a cat’s head hanging in front of the building I was in charge, its blood smeared on the door and window walls, its body lying inside.”
The unusual incident attracted people from all over the place, including the servants of God, who organized prayers.
“Shortly after the prayer, the servants of God removed the ‘witchcraft’ and cleansed the area. Suddenly, I began to feel a headache, my eyes turned red, I became dizzy and fell unconscious.”
“I do not know how long I slept on the floor, but I was woken up by two people who wanted me to sit on a motorcycle and take me home,” he says.
By then, his sight had begun to fade. His view was smoky.
“August 3, 2017, will remain a memory in my mind. I remember when he got off a motorcycle, I was shocked to see him struggling to find the door to the house, he said he had lost ability to see, ” says Alice.
Children left after tragedy
Their efforts to seek medical treatment at various hospitals have been unsuccessful as every test they performed found no disease.
“I had to quit my teaching job at the Royal Academy, where I used to care for my husband. We started seeking medication from Navakholo hospital and then Kakamega General, Russia General in Kisumu and later Sabatia, the largest eye hospital in the country. The doctors tested me and said they did not see any disease,” Henry says.
However, the family has been forced to sell most of their property, including livestock, land, and even household items, to cover the cost of treatment.
“We were blessed with six children, two went missing as soon as Dad started selling things,” said Alice.
“We had high hopes for our children. There are minimal chances that this hope will materialize. One of my daughters had been called to pursue journalism and mass communication at Moi University in Eldoret. She left when she realized I was unable to provide for her basic needs.”
“After completion of the dormitory, the school was to pay me, but they took advantage of my disability and refused to honor our agreement,” he says, tears profusely flowing from his eyes.
Making matters worse, Simiyu suffers a leg injury he got after falling into a ditch while trying to enter his house when it rained.
“That day, my wife was not there, it was raining, and I had no one to help me get into the house. I fell into a ditch. That day, the rain stormed, and the pit flooded while I was inside,” he added.
His wish is for donors and people of good will to come to his recue and help at least demand for his money from the school, which he says will help him address some of his needs, including his treatment and children’s school fees.
The following letter from his lawyer sought to compel the school to pay him Sh 391,000.
Our efforts to get a statement from the former school’s principal at St. Kizito Girls High, Martin Waswa, who at the time was the chairman in charge of the project, failed to bear fruits as he refused to speak to us.
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