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The Unsung Heroes

It’s been an ordinary day.  A black blanket spreads across the sky and the stars twinkle just as the nursery rhyme said they would.   The air is filled with sounds of the night – laughter and camaraderie, speed and exhaustion; quiet and contemplation.  Suddenly, the ordinary is shattered by the sudden.  The clash of metal against metal.  The shattering of glass and the screams of agony.  In a moment, the calm of the night is transformed into a desperate rush to save lives and contain losses.  In a moment, the ordinary calm is overtaken by a deathly calm.  The calm of lives nipped in the bud by the now unavoidable – a road crash that could have been avoided with sobriety, seat belts or speed management.  In a moment, all that’s left is KILIO: “To those we lost… For those still here”

Each year, 1.3 million people are killed in road crashes around the globe.  Every year, more than 1.3 million lives are transformed by the physical or emotional injuries inflicted by road crashes around the world.

Every day, 4,000 people are killed in road crashes around the globe.  Every day, more road crashes physically or emotionally scar than 50,000 people in the world.

Road crashes are the leading cause of death for individuals aged between 15 and 29, and 85% of these crashes are avoidable.

According to the 2009 World Health Organisation (WHO) global status report, Kenya recorded 3,760 traffic deaths, the highest in East Africa region.  Regardless of this staggering statistic, we continue to blame the government for inaction, forgetting that road safety is OUR responsibility.  Without personal investment and commitment, rules will remain words on a piece of paper.  Lifeless and incapable of causing the change we are dying to see.  We will find ways to cheat the alcometer – we will push our cars past police checks and bribe police officers to our death and the death of our loved ones.  We will overlap and overtake with such foolish bravado that we will have nobody to blame for the death of our dreams.  We – yes, you and me – will put our children in the driver’s and co-driver’s seats to look cool.  Then, we will cry ourselves to sleep when our whispers go unanswered by the cold little bodies of the angels that we killed with our good intentions.

Still, in our beloved country, there are people who are taking their responsibility seriously.  Unfortunately, in our rushed and disillusioned lives, we have ignored them, leaving them as the unsung heroes of our future.

In 2011, Chariots of Destiny and Pamoja Road Safety Initiative began a campaign that seeks to promote change by celebrating road safety champions.  During this year’s World Day of Remembrance, Chariots of Destiny and Pamoja Road Safety Initiative lanched the Youth Awards for Road Safety (YARS) by celebrating men and women whose involvement in the road safety campaign has made them beacons of light in a dark tunnel.

Eva Mueni was involved in a road crash in 2007.  The road crash left her hospitalized for six months and paralyzed from the waist down.   Since then, she has used her story and her sunny disposition to champion the road safety cause.  As an ambassador for Chariots of Destiny, Eva tells her audiences that her seat belt saved her life, and that the scars it left on her body remind her that it could have been worse.

Project Platform, a group of seven young musicians, are changing their corner of the world through song.  Upon hearing about Kilio, they composed a theme song for this memorable event and enthralled us with their ability to carry a melody, whether the sound system works or not.

Another music group – ABBA Sons -  received their award for having used their experience as a platform for the message that they carry.  After surviving a road crash, these brothers dare rapping an important message into the minds of drivers.  Don’t drink and drive.  Be responsible.   Lawrence and Dishon have produced a myriad of songs emphasizing the importance of responsibility on our roads.

What do you do when you are running late for a scheduled activity?  Hop into a matatu that will break all traffic rules known to man?   Throw your child into the car and speed off into the madness of Kenyan roads?  Purity Muthoni Kisaka has dared to be different.  Whenever this wonder woman has had an opportunity, she has cautioned drivers on their recklessness and encouraged parents, not only to seat their children in the back seat, but also to buy them a car seat!

Mahatma Gandhi encouraged us to be the change we want to see in the world.  These individuals are taking this charge seriously and we should too.

Drive safe, stay alive and remember, it’s only an accident if it was unavoidable.  On most days, it’s a road crash.  Deliberate, irresponsible and regrettable.

 

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