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TESPOK receives boost as autism half marathon gets underway

The Technology Service Providers of Kenya (TESPOK) today briefed the public on their readiness for their inaugural Autism run to be held on Sunday, 27th, November 2022 in Nairobi.

The Association has partnered with various stakeholders for the TESPOK Autism Marathon including the private sector and the government as Kenyan sprinter Ferdinand Omanyala becomes the ambassador for the event.

The marathon has been necessitated by worrying statistics from The Autism Society of Kenya (ASK), that the Autism prevalence in the country could be up to 4 per cent, or one autistic child for every 25 children, which is higher than the global average.

Speaking at the event, TESPOK Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Fiona Asonga said that the Association alongside other partners have come together to continue a journey it recently kick-started to embrace and support a community that is often forgotten.

She stated that the tech-led association prides itself on being key problem solver, employing technology to simplify day-to-day lives and transform society. “We recently launched the Inaugural TESPOK Autism Marathon, an initiative born to facilitate autism research and determine the exact statistics on autism cases across the country to enable key stakeholders understand the issue and come up with working solutions that will support people living with autism,” said Asonga.

The CEO acknowledged the support of the Kenya Police and road monitors; KURA and KeNHA who will ensure that the marathon route is safe and secure for the 21km, 10km, 5km and 2km runs with a start and finish at the Nyayo National Stadium.

Further, Asonga mentioned that the aim of the Association is educating the public to eliminate the existing stigma through creating acceptance and understanding amongst the larger society.

“We look forward to partnerships with the Ministry of Education and county governments, to conduct outreach programs aimed at enabling autistic children and young adults to acquire relevant skills and scholarships among school-going autistic children,” added Asonga.

She maintained the Association’s support of creating a unique job portal for persons affected by autism through ASK in partnership with TESPOK’s tech members to encourage the development of educational tools that can ease learning for autistic children and adults especially in technology platforms where they are more vulnerable to cyber risks due to their communication challenges.

Asonga urged the public to come out in large numbers to run together and also join the movement and welcomed on board more advocates that will help debunk the myths, misconceptions and stigma surrounding autism for a more inclusive future generation.

Also speaking during the briefing, TESPOK Board Chairman, Hillary Itela shed light on employing diversity and inclusion to drive innovation and impact communities. “We must become the strong support system that voices the unheard and advocates for structures and systems that address the need of the most vulnerable in society,” he reiterated.

At the same time, the marathon ambassador Ferdinand Omanyala noted that it is every human’s need to belong, to be part of a community, to be part of a group where they are heard, included and empowered.

In a speech read on his behalf by his manager Marcel Viljoen, Omanyala maintained that the community must become the strong support system that voices the unheard and advocates for structures and resources to embrace and support autistic people in a humane way.

“For children living with autism, with uniquely designed programs, technology will be able to expedite or simplify learning processes which will eventually empower them to be key contributors of emerging issues in the society which affects them too,” stated Omanyala, adding that technology being a revolutionary tool, will go a long way in solving inherent issues in the daily lives of autistic children and adults.

Meanwhile, the police through Senior Superintendent Geoffrey Njogu assured the public that they are prepared for the marathon with slightly over 500 police officers deployed for the event.

He urged the media and other stakeholders to create awareness to the members of the public to plan in advance and use alternative routes on that day to avoid inconveniences.

“Vehicles from Westlands have the option to use Limuru Road, Murang’a Road, vehicles from Mombasa have an option of Express way, Likoni Road, Eastern bypass or Southern Bypass if they are heading to Nakuru, Motorists from Ngong and Rongai to use Southern Bypass, Langata Road and link Road whereas those who will want to access the CBD to use Thika Super Highway, Landhies Road and Jogoo Road,” Njogu advised.

Registration for the marathon is ongoing through www.autismmarathon.or.ke. Children admission is Sh1000 while adults’ participation will cost Sh2000. Donations are also open to any amount through Paybill no. 8047051 with the donor’s name as the account number.

As part of the commitment to the cause, TESPOK has committed to spearhead this initiative that will create more awareness and understanding of Autism across the country, by rallying support from its members, corporates and the public to mobilize resources towards addressing the needs of people living with autism.

By Michael Omondi

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