After an accident that rendered him disabled, Michael Mwangi has found new hope in his talent and now showcases his art through his 3 million Photography platform.
The SPU community led by the Students’ association is now fundraising towards Mike’s surgery in India so as to enable him walk again.
By John Kasaine
One Saturday afternoon in March this year, St. Paul’s University students’ center amphitheater was a hive of activity as ladies and gentlemen strutted the catwalk for a good cause. The students had taken to the stage to raise funds for Bethany Kids, a charity ran by Kijabe Hospital to correct cleft lips in children.
The room was packed to the door with students who cheered animatedly as their favorite contestants for Mr &Miss Bethany Kids titles walked the stage in pomp and glamour. Nearer to the runway, on both sides, were a battery of photographers clicking away, careful not to miss that all important shot. Standing out of the group was a young man in his early twenties, seated on a wheelchair and capturing the moments in his Canon 5D Mark III. In his electric wheelchair, he zoomed back and forth as he sought to find the perfect shot. That Saturday, like many other days Michael Mwangi was in his element, doing what he does best.
Michael is a man with a face full of laughter, joy and life but with the story of a warrior. A jovial and humorous man who leaves anyone he meets and greets with laughter. Despite a spinal cord injury that has left him in a wheelchair, the twenty-three year old, second year student of Communication at St. Paul’s University, Limuru, still exudes infectious happiness.
“The 10 th of October, 2014, is a day that changed my life forever.” Michael was on his way to apply for a Film Production Diploma at MultiMedia University. “I was at the bus stop waiting to board a matatu then in a split of a second a bus came speeding, overlapping, and…it…” he sighed, head in hands and continued, “It knocked me off my feet and due to its speed, ran me over. All I remember was the bus’ tires just in front of my face, and then I went unconscious,” he says.
I asked how his life was before that fateful day in 2014. “I had a lot of dreams and goals to fulfill.” Michael remembers waking up in Kenyatta National Hospital unable to move anything but his eyelids. “When I woke up in hospital, I tried to move my hands, I couldn’t, I tried to turn around but it was too painful. The reality of that circumstance made me wish I had died.”
The memories of that day cast a dark cloud over the once happy face. Michael was transferred to the National Spinal Injury Hospital in Nairobi. A second born in a family of five, Michael says that though he was unconscious for most of the time, he knew his family was struggling to meet his new needs and hospital bills. “My family is not wealthy, we all struggle to meet our needs, and the accident had a lot of implications on us. I remember my little sister came to see me once. The doctors tried to stop her for fear of getting infections from the ward, but she was adamant to see me. Her courage and my family’s sacrifice pushed me to fight,” he says.
Despite the difficulties he faced and how the accident has changed his life, his passion for photography has not been dimmed. Photography is a lifelong purpose for Michael. As he spoke about it, his face lit up. “After I was discharged in August 2015, I was determined to fulfill my purpose again. The reason why we occupy space on earth is service; photography is my service.”
Michael joined St. Paul’s University in January 2016, and enrolled for a Diploma in Communication. “I chose SPU because I saw how much they have put efforts to appreciate and put in place measures for people with disability to easily access their resources.”
The pursuit of his passion has not been easy. Photography requires a lot of movement and with a wheel chair his movements are limited. “It has not been easy, sometimes I ask friends to push me around and sometimes I get tired of asking. At times I want to take long shorts from a high place and I ask them to take the picture for me; the way they take the picture is not how I’d have taken it, but I have not given up.”
That is why; Michael founded 3 million Photography forum – a platform that showcases pictures of social events, fashion and modeling. Michael wanted to give back to society using his talent in photography. “I came up with this idea to give a chance to talented people and the poor in society because I know that pictures can tell a story and I was going to use them to tell other people’s and my stories too,” Michael explained.
On how Michael made it, he says, “My passion is what made me overcome my circumstance. It is because I still believe that the accident took away my ability to walk but it did not take away my spirit, charisma and dreams; my mind is still intact.” He plans to open a photo studio soon after completing school that will help him achieve his goals.
Michael has received help from the foundation of people living with disability, a government entity which pays his fees for one semester every year. His parents struggle to pay the rest of the fees. “Though these are real challenges, I choose to tune in to my inner power and strength and with the help of God I know I will make it,” Michael says.
Michael is still hopeful that he will walk again. “My life changed within a twinkle of an eye, I believe it can happen again. Though the doctors say there is no hope of ever walking, I still believe that God who brought me this far shall see my commitment and grant me that ability again. I am not giving up.”