For six years, Julius Odhiambo Owino, aka Awilo, has helped hundreds of learners and pedestrians safely cross the busy Eldoret-Webuye highway at the Mwamba trading centre in Lugari Sub County.
His three main daily shifts at the trading centre, located between Kipkaren and Turbo Town, from 5 a.m. to 8am; from 12pm to 2pm and from 4pm to 6pm in the evening, are inspired by a disturbing accident he witnessed years ago involving a pupil.
Awilo’s face is familiar to learners, pedestrians, and motorists at the trading centre because of his selfless dedication to curb accidents, especially those involving learners at the hands of negligent motorists.
In each of his daily shifts, Awilo dons a green reflector jacket and holds two small flags—a red one on the right hand and a green one on the left hand.
He stands at the centre of the highway, calls out to the learners, and issues instructions to motorists to stop and allow them to cross.
“I started offering this voluntary service in 2018. I felt obliged to volunteer to assist pupils cross the road after having witnessed a number of learners getting involved in accidents right here at the trading centre while heading to school or going back home.
The incident that prompted me to act involved innocent pupils of Mwamba Primary School. I was relaxing in front of one of the shops at the trading centre when I saw two pupils heading home, attempting to cross the busy highway.
The first one, the elder of the two, ran fast and crossed the road. The younger one, who was slow, was hit by an oncoming motorcycle. From that time, I decided I must do something to save the lives of the learners,” Awilo recounted to KNA, noting that he chose to do so voluntarily because the young learners are innocent.
Awilo spends most of his daytime, including the weekends, at the crossing point, which is now his ‘duty station’ because of the many public service and heavy commercial vehicles plying the busy northern corridor.
“I work throughout the day, including on Sunday, because there are children going to Sunday school. Ordinarily, my day starts at 5 o’clock and ends at night after assisting some of the business operators at the trading centre cross the busy road,” he said.
According to Awilo, before he started offering his voluntary services, a week wouldn’t pass without an accident in the market.
He estimates that he helps hundreds of learners and other road users cross the busy highway daily.
He is now appealing to the local leadership and the Kakamega County government to come to his aid. He says for the last six years he has abandoned his personal activities for the sake of assisting the learners.
Mwamba Primary School Head Teacher Rosemary Simiyu whose learners have immensely benefited from Awilo’s services said the entire school community and residents of Mwamba area appreciate his efforts.
She said: “Awilo is a true patriot. Before, we had a big challenge in regards to learners crossing the ever-busy highway.
With the school having a big catchment area and most of our learners coming from across the highway, we had problems early in the morning, at lunch time, and in the evening when we break for the day.
However, I want to attest that since 2018, I have been overjoyed, and on my own behalf and that of the school community, we feel Indebted to Awilo. He is offering voluntary services and doing it well.
“He is timely. He knows when the learners are heading to school, he knows when they are breaking for lunch and he knows when they are leaving school in the evening.” Said the headteacher.
Simiyu noted that since the arrival of Awilo, no accident involving the learners has been reported at the trading centre.
She wishes that the community and the local leadership find a way of motivating him because of the sacrifice he is making.
Mwamba location Chief Edwin Ashirobe also lauded Awilo’s efforts, saying he has been of great help to road users at the trading centre.
“Before he started offering his services, there were many accidents involving learners of Mwamba primary school, Mwamba secondary school, and other neighbouring schools.
However, since 2018, the number of accidents has drastically dropped to almost zero. Right now, it is rare for me to receive a call alert that an accident has occurred at the centre. Awilo assists pupils, learners, the disabled, and adults in need of his services,”he stated.
Ashirobe disclosed that the trading centre community, including administrators, business operators, and boda-boda riders, has decided to assist Awilo.
“We want to properly equip him. We also plan to transform his living place and give him the necessary support so that he can feel he is helping the Mwamba community,”he added.
Dickson Muyama, a boda-boda operator at Mwamba Stage, said Awillo has been of great help in the market.
He said: “He has really assisted us. In the morning, he arrives here earlier than us, ready to assist the learners, and does so throughout the day.”
Muyama appealed to elected leaders in Lugari and other well-wishers to find a way of assisting Awilo, even if it means giving him a stipend for his voluntary services, in order to motivate him and ensure he leads a better life.
By Melechezedeck Ejakait