The Cluster Foundation (TCF), evolved from the experience of two people volunteering social and physical support to a mutual friend with paralysis.
Success with this friend aroused an interest in the fate of similar cases. Nick & Njoki ~ two people who put their motivational & inspirational skills into what was initially a “hobby”…
In 2007 we began visiting Nicky who had been home for 22years after complications from a motor vehicle accident when he was 17yrs old ~ we played with him, exercised him, rolled his wheelchair around with Njoki seated on it & him pushing for him to regain his balance, made him perform tasks with his left limbs and every single thing we would think up with the resources available around him; we drove him out and about, took him out to the movies, for an ice cream, for picnics, for anything!
Before we knew it, he was sitting on his own, his feet had straightened out, and his “paralyzed” left side was doing stuff he’d only ever dreamed of doing…. He was seriously motivating US instead!! By the end of our 2nd year with him, he was standing by himself for 30mins without losing balance, sitting on his own out of his wheelchair, he could walk with a single 3-legged stick, he was exercising, switching switches on & off, holding food & stuff with his left hand, raising his left leg without raising it with his right hand, the blood circulation on his left side was swimming full speed ahead fattening his limbs, he was talking non-stop with minimum slurring, laughing & being as witty as he used to be, he regained his memory, and so much more. He was no longer just alive, he now had life!!
We were thrilled!! So excited yet so puzzled about what other people with spinal cord injury (SCI) did day to day, and where were they anyway?? We searched and we sure found! These “missing” people were stuck in their homes, afraid to re-emerge in their new conditions, believing they ‘can’t” do this or that. We believed they CAN!!
Research on similar cases revealed:
ÓNo follow up after discharge from Hospital.
Ó No social service or support group to facilitate social integration of SCI victims.
Ó99%people with SCI unable to return to previous active work, social and even family life after discharge from hospital.
Ó99% people with SCI lose self-confidence, experience depression and go into seclusion after discharge from hospital.
Ó80% die within a span of 5years after discharge from hospital.
Ó15,000 people are acquiring injury every month
ÓOver 75,000 people are living with paralysis in Kenya.
By mid-2008 we were working with 6 people with SCI. We’d pick them all and assemble at one person’s home then work out with them as a group, motivating each other, discussing pertinent and sensitive issues, laughing & sharing a meal together… birthing TCF’s I Can Experience (ICE) activities!
We were running out of our personal and family funds and had by now learnt that caring for a person with SCI is the society’s responsibility, and so we quickly decided to take the plunge – this birthed The Cluster Foundation (TCF) and registered in September 2008!
Due to the lack of funds against the escalating demand for TCF’s Ice activities, we started a project of collecting newspapers from people’s homes & offices, that are sold to recyclers and the funds channeled to The Foundation.
These enabled us build a network that has grown to TCF’s ‘wheel pals’, the networks spread to homes with people with paralysis stuck in their homes; newspapers have led people to donate more than newspapers: funds and volunteering, newspapers formed the TCF board, newspapers also attracted the firms that have offered their services pro bono for: TCF branding, TCF logo, TCF website development & design, TCF transport & lunches for ICE activities, TCF furnishings, TCF’s two computers, in a nutshell all that TCF is and has today. Everyone has become more involved with TCF’s objective of rallying people with spinal cord injuries out of their homes back into the mainstream of the society.
Currently, through revenue from your newspapers TCF gathers an average 50 people with paralysis and volunteers every month for an ICE activity at no cost. It expanded its services to include group activities and social outings.The majority of our beneficiaries have lived with their spinal cord injury below 5 yrs, meaning they’re newly-injured, which is really good — we get to hit them hot as they’re entering this new world of managing paraplegia or quadriplegia. If we can get them early, we can instill a positive perception or this passion for being adventurous and not being limited by their physical body. For if they spend too much time in a wheelchair the idea of being limited can really calcify thus they get “stuck”.
The Cluster Foundation stands strong because it totally depends on its 2 pillars PARTNERSHIP and NETWORKING, which ensure sustainability and replication. Its maiden chapter is based in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi; its model shall gradually be rolled out to the current 46 counties, beginning with Nyeri where we have already identified 19 people with SCI who are waiting with bated breath.
2014 is TCF’s year to launch its very existence, to expand its wings, to establish its secretariat & fully fledged office, to own its fleet of transport for administration, newspaper runs & modified vans for pwps, to embrace its volunteers, to burst forth… Newspapers have only upheld the existing TCF programs running 9 months in a year, and without a secretariat yet it’s imperative that it grows in response to this demand. TCF requires ample financial support to conduct the entire operation without interruption.
TCF’s engine is the 2 of us, Nick & Njoki and the volunteers who spend their time with us outreaching and opening more doors for people with paralysis. The Foundation has its entire craft checked (structure), crew and passengers (secretariat) on board and is ready for take-off however, it has no fuel; we, the TCF Trustees, better known as “enablers” are still evidently driven just by our passion though we’re out of oil…
Twice we have shut shop! Yes! We literally threw in the towel, the 1st time round we sought alternative means of generating revenue to boost the meager funds from the sale of newspapers, the 2nd time we dipped in despair.
Both times we looked back at the people’s lives whom we had influenced to change their perceptions about themselves and get back to life, unfortunately, the 1st time round we regrettably lost TCF’s 1st Chief Executive Officer, Jonathan ~ a quadriplegic who slipped into a depression & right through our fingers – this in itself jolted us straight back to action, 2nd time around the pwps brought us back on board with their incessant pleas to resume TCF’s monthly activities and this is when TCF Angels also came aboard taking up transport, lunches, widening the newspaper network collection and so much more.
TCF Trustees are out to see TCF’s program run without delay or interruption, with ideas put into projects and programs. We stand as a bridge that will elevate people living with spinal cord injuries to break the barriers that hold them back by giving them the visibility and dignity they so richly deserve, revolutionizing the societies approach to disability, and through TCF people with SCI will find the ultimate reward of discovering Hope that they Can.