When Kenya registered its first Covid-19 case on 12th March 2020, Gideon Lung’ashi Samwel, a Kisumu based artist living with disability, had secured a tender to supply 100 designer menus to a local hotel.
The deal which could have earned him Sh100, 000 slipped through his fingers as the hotel industry in the lakeside city suffered a beating due to measures announced by the Ministry of Health to contain spread of the virus.
As businesses closed down and thousands rendered jobless, Gideon who relied on his artwork to support his family was forced to go back to the drawing board.
“Within a very short time, everything just changed. I was no longer receiving orders for the various products I make,” he said.
As many youths who lost their sources of livelihood in the area pondered their next move, Gideon opted to work from home and continued producing various forms of art and products, a decision he says has paid off.
Given the harsh economic effects of the disease, he opted to collect used papers from printing firms in Kisumu city to do his artwork and at the same time diversified into producing more products to reach a wider market.
The products which included door mats, certificate holders, hotel menus, folders, wall hangings, files, paintings, pencil art, tooth pick holders and jewelry have made him a household name in Manyatta where he lives with his family.
Through selling his art work and products, he managed to overcome the harsh economic effects of Covid-19 disease offering hope to other people living with disability and youth.
“From this venture, I am able to make between Sh5, 000-10, 000 per week but because of covid-19, I make an average of Sh20, 000 per month,” he said.
This, he said has enabled him to fend for his family and at the same time make savings to complete a degree course he is undertaking at KCA University.
His resilience and effort throughout the pandemic has earned him admirers and motivated youths from the populous Manyatta informal settlement to do something with themselves.
“I receive numerous requests from youth who have gained interest in what I do to teach them and support them to earn a living through art,” he said.
However, because of his condition and an injury he sustained on his right hand while working, he has only been able to absorb four who are currently being mentored.
Gideon who is also an Ajira Digital mentor says a lot of youth in the area could earn a decent living through art if properly trained and supported to grow.
To take his venture to the next level and mentor more youth, he has appealed to the government and well-wishers to support him to get a working space in town.
Gideon who developed an interest in art at a tender age of 3, battled hemophilia before his right leg was amputated.
He owes his success to his aunt who supported him during the formative years to nurture his talent.
His appeal to the youth and people living with disability is never to give up but soldier on to make their dreams come true.
By Chris Mahandara/George Kaiga