Kennedy Ng’ang’a: artist and philanthropist

A dynamic personality is gaining popularity among many Facebook users around the world, especially those who live and thrive with some of life’s toughest challenges. Philanthropist and artist, Kennedy Ng’ang’a inspires thousands with his captivating personality and warm heart. He paints with bold strokes using his clenched hand to hold the brush. His colorful imagination pours into his art as if his paralyzed body dances and sings.

I was given the opportunity to interview Kennedy recently. Using messages on Facebook, we talked for three hours. Only when the interview began did I realize that Kennedy typed his responses with her knuckles on the small keypad of his phone. Looking back at the questions I asked him now seem too simple, but his answers filled our conversation with wisdom and an uplifting attitude. When asked what he wanted the world to know about him, he replied, “My challenges, my courage, my art, my dream to serve the community through my dear late mother’s foundation, the Mama Kennedy Fund.”

When Kennedy was injured in a diving accident in 1992, his mother devoted herself to the care of her son. She passed away in June of last year and Kennedy desperately misses her, but keeps her alive through her art and philanthropy. “My mother was an angel and she still is. She is the secret behind my survival as a quadriplegic for the last 19 years… [she] He cared for me tirelessly. She taught me to love, to be kind, to forgive and to never give up no matter what. [I] I am crying a lot for my mother as I write these words.”

The story of the Mama Kennedy Fund appears on Kennedy’s website. “In August 2011, with about US$175.00, I started a fund… at our local Mtopanga Revival Baptist Church, where she has been the elder, and also the oldest member in her honor, and also to keep his legacy of devotion to the well-being of others alive.” Most of the proceeds from the sale of Kennedy’s art go to support the fund.

Kennedy tells me of her desire to help “the Mbazizo Disability Self Help Group in the poorest area of ​​Kenya…”. This group learned of Kennedy’s philanthropy and honored him by inviting him to sponsor him. On Mother’s Day, the Mama Kennedy Fund delivered much-needed supplies, gifts and other items to the group… Ken writes on Facebook, “The group is from a poor and forgotten backwater where poverty rules mercilessly.” He posts photos from the event that show smiling faces amidst a Christmas atmosphere. Nobody would say that people dressed in colors feel something more than hope.

Kennedy’s daily schedule allows him to be productive and healthy. For about two hours he works on his art, between 10:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. After that, she lies down for an hour on her back with her legs suspended. His brothers help him exercise every night before he goes to sleep. “I also kneel with the help of my metal bar above my head for 30 minutes three times a day. I do push-ups, pull-ups, etc.”

Kennedy’s close friend, Shell Harris, who lives in San Antonio, Texas, volunteers her time to promote and sell Kennedy’s artwork. Shell writes: “Meeting Kennedy has enriched my life in more ways than I can describe; here is a man who is confined to his ‘home’, which is nothing more than a mud shack with a leaky roof and not even underground, electricity or running water Spends most of his time in a makeshift bed Hasn’t seen a doctor in over 15 years His only view of the world is through a small window next to his bed However, it paints such beauty!

Over the past year, Kennedy’s presence on Facebook has grown stronger, with friends being added every day. Another of Kennedy’s friends, Freya Pruitt, also from San Antonio, wrote an article in her magazine “Transforming Today’s World” about Kennedy’s artistry and bravery. On Friday, May 18, she held an auction to sell many of Kennedy’s original paintings to help Kennedy and the Mama Kennedy Fund.

When people see Kennedy’s artwork, it’s almost inevitable that they are drawn to his spirit. The art is colorful and alive. He paints pictures of Kenyan life, natural beauty and amazing animals. His themes move across his canvases, vibrant and alive, drawing us into the world of his hopes and dreams and his visions of how life in Kenya might one day be for him and others who are poor and disabled. Kennedy shares something with others facing overwhelming challenges that living with a disability often brings incredible gifts of compassion and self-expression.

Lately, Kennedy would sometimes wake up and her legs and feet would bleed from the bites of rats that had invaded her home. However, the anguish I felt over this disturbing news was soon alleviated by an email from Kennedy with the subject line: “A stranger in my castle.” He wrote: “This strange intruder who looks more like a cat than a giant rat came to our shack 3 days ago and chased away the rats and took over the territory. He only shows up at night and hasn’t hurt anyone other than digging . holes in our dirt floor and stealing my mangoes and bananas. It also looks like a snake eater, which is also a plus.” He sends photos of the large rodent-like creature. I immediately search the Internet and discover that his guest is a genet. I write to him and tell him what the animal is and that they look a lot like cats or ferrets. Some people keep them as pets. Many people’s prayers are answered by the genet, especially Kennedy’s.

By the end of the interview, I feel closer to Kennedy than many people I’ve known for years. He is my “dear brother” and he always greets me with “my dear older sister”. I am moved every day that I meet him, and I am inspired by him when I find my own other abilities.

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