My day at the St John Road Safety Walk 2022
How it went down at the St John Ambulance Road Safety Walk 2022 on 18th June.
When I saw an e-poster doing rounds on Facebook and WhatsApp about the St John Road Safety Walk to be held at the Ngong Road Forest Sanctuary, at first I was like… “Who holds corporate events inside a forest…Like who does that?”
“But, Wait a minute! A walk?”
I couldn’t ignore that part. I love those walks in the park. I mean, you know those kind of walks that are just slow…really slow, with someone’s son tagging beside you. Yeah, I had to buy myself a branded St John Walk Tshirt at Ksh. 1,000.
The walk was dedicated to raising at least 12 million Kenyan shillings that will be channeled towards training of boda boda riders, matatu drivers and residents of accident black spot areas with first aid and emergency response skills, making them first responders along the major highways in Kenya.
Well, when the term bodaboda riders crosses my mind, this sends some chills down my spine. Sadly, I cannot avoid grabbing a boda here and there to get to where ever I need to go. Those guys can literally slither through traffic and get you out of an obvious late appointment. However, wait until an accident occurs involving them.…hell!
St John Ambulance seem to have seen this habit and really wanted to change that motorcycle business operators’ industry for the better. The organization has put out a well laid down program to make sure that at least 200, 000 of them across the country get First aid training and each of them to get a refillable first aid kit for use in case they encounter a road accident as they roam about their business.
Well, it seems like a pipe dream…far away to achieve. The charitable organization had an already put up clever resource mobilization committee in place to see the program make sense. According to the Resource Mobilization officer at St John Ambulance Florence Kasuku, bodaboda riders today have well established stage names and organized themselves in registered saccos. She adds that each boda boda group has a strong leader who actually knows each operator by name, their wife/husband and children, face and registration number of their motorcycles. “All we need is identify each group leader and request him or her to mobilize bodaboda riders in his team.” Says Florence.
Florence believes that, right now it is easy to track each bodaboda rider by their area of operation. Therefore, once you train them, you can always reach them by phone or even physically go to their leader who can fish them out whenever we need to do some quality control, monitoring and evaluation of the exercise.
I went down to google for some figures. Can you imagine, a recent report by the by NTSA shows that 4,579 people died in road crashes in 2021, up from 3,975 in 2020. Bodaboda riders account for the highest number of these fatalities at 1,634 deaths. In the last nine years, the number of riders dying annually has been increasing steadily from 481 in 2013 to an all-time high of 1,634 deaths in 2021.
But of more concern is that half of these road deaths are as a result of mishandling and incorrect first aid given by the first responders.
To cut down on this rising trend of road fatalities that is costing the country billion of its GDP, over 200,000 Bodaboda Operators will get first aid and emergency response training to enable them attend to road crash cases while on the road.
Boom, I was in! That was convincing enough that my Ksh. 1,000 would be going into a worthy course. I needed the bodaboda industry better. “Let me tell you Maina” These bodaboda are actually willing and ready to make the industry better. A little support from all of us and we are in for a better industry.
I can’t believe I was on a bodaboda at 6am Saturday 18th June from my humble home headed to Ngong Road Forest Sanctuary. I had not been there before, but somehow, once I mentioned the location to the boda guy, he automatically knew where it was and off we went. It was cold, I was armed with the branded Tshirt and some shorts with sneakers. When riding on a motorcycle, get ready to cover yourself fully away from the biting cold as they speed off. Sadly, I wasn’t covered. The sharp morning chills slapped me really well on my way to the event.
The walk was scheduled to Start at 6.30am. I arrived at the Ngong Road Forest Sanctuary at 6.40am. I was on time, lol.
The long St John telescopic banners towering along the road into the forest clearly marked and confirmed that I was at the right place. The rangers at the gate too were very helpful guiding participants into the event site.
I was alone, no one’s son beside me. I wanted to meet new friends, walk and enjoy nature at its best natural environment. St John had offered the best. I liked the environment. Seemed like everybody else loved the trees as we walked together towards the event site in the middle of the sanctuary.
There was a registration desk just before you get to the event site verifying those who had already applied online and register those who had not yet registered or picked their T-shirts. The route marks towards the event were well marked as I joined a group of high school students who had also come to participate. I could see several corporate organizations who had erected their banners too along the route as sponsors and partners.
At the middle of the sanctuary, there was a wide open field where tents had been pitched with blaring sounds of good music getting everyone into a dancing mood. The MC had come with a good Zumba trainer. “Let me tell you Maina”. I loved the Zumba dances that morning!
St John Resource Mobilization Committee Chairperson Dr. Manoj Shah flagged off the walk in groups of 21km walk, 10km walk, 5km and 2.5 km walk. I chose the 10km walk. “Sipendi kuchoka” but I also love keeping fit.
There were various checkpoints along the walk paths, where everyone picked a bottle of water and an energy drink. Several families had come out to participate with their children from as young as 4 years old, walking in pairs, holding hands and playing along the way. This was beautiful.
Most families with children took the 5 km walk while the big boys and girls decided to try threatening us with their 21km walk. There were areas that the trees were open enough to see the sun rise across its leaves, while certain sections were fully covered under a thicket of branches. The route marks and road chalk marks guided our way deep into the forest as we meandered through foot paths and clear open roads. At some point, we had to cross a small stream with clean water as we made our way back to the starting point.
Some, who had taken the 21km route got tired midway and abandoned their route and found themselves following the lower cadre of 10km and 5km routes. That’s cheating, right? The babies were so adorable walking through the forest sanctuary playfully as they sipped some more life from their water bottles every step of the way.
I couldn’t wait for more dancing to the music and screaming on top of my voice at the entertainment area. Thank you St John Ambulance Kenya. Together we can do more in changing the boda boda industry. Let’s do this again next year. Cheers!
By Michelle Nyaanga.
The writer is a student from the Strathmore University, School of International Relations, a participant of the St John RS Walk 2022.