When he was born in Nanyuki in 1974, Macharia Raphael had a normal childhood. Yet a few years after his presence on the planet, in class two to be specific, a whirlwind of uncertainty disrupted his young life.
An attempted Coup d’état in Kenya forced his family to move to Karatina to avoid the heavy combat that was going on in Nanyuki.
Living with his grandmother in Karatina, the challenges were numerous than the beach sand. As a proactive kid, he decided to venture into agriculture where he grew green peas.
Back in Nanyuki, his brother who remained behind because he had a hawking business was arrested. He was arrested because he was involved in the Saba Saba protests.
After his release from prison, his fortunes changed dramatically when was appointed as a board member of the Nanyuki District Hospital. Through him, Macharia got what he calls as a big break.
July 2001, Macharia got a chance to be a casual labourer in the hospital. He joined as a gardener for a period of 1 year.
He was then transferred to the ward as a cleaner.
After 3 months cleaning the wards, he vividly remembers the first time he stepped in the morgue. However, the shock didn’t hit as hard as he had been warned. While cleaning the wards, he had gotten used to handling bodies that had lost the fight of life. But the sudden exposure to numerous dead bodies was mortifying and sometimes paralysing yet like a paradox, it became his ‘Damascus road’ experience. In the ward, he saw people who were alive and some died but in his new duty station, he was surrounded by a sea of bodies.
His family and their needs kept him focused on the job. It’s that attitude that pulled him from the abyss lunacy.
But God always has a way of ordering our steps, he affirmed to me. Before he went into the morgue, he was a borderline alcoholic. He was barely in good terms with his wife who found his habit of urinating on the bed and misbehaving when he has drunk a trial from hell.
On his first day at the morgue, he had already sobered up. He realised that life is fleeting. The thought that his body could easily be the one being embalmed, preserved then dispatched by another person slapped reality in him. However, his attitude towards his trying job was always excellent, he says.
“Clients always loved my work because I put my entire heart into it and they appreciated me,” confessed the soft-spoken Macharia during the interview.
“During my time, the mortuary changed. It became one of the cleanest mortuaries around. We introduced embalming which wasn’t there before. Even after I got transferred, the morgue is still as clean as we left it because we worked on the systems. I always worked like I was doing my own personal job. The bodies became my business, their families became my family,” explained Macharia.
How did his fortunes change?
When he was working in the store, he spared a few minutes off his busy schedule to learn how to drive. When a memo came that announced a vacancy in the position of a driver int he hospital, he jumped on it and got shortlisted for the interviews. “I emerged number two with 87 points out of a possible 100,” said Macharia.
His long and arduous casual labourer status was changed when he got employed on 2nd November 2007 as an ambulance driver.
A positive attitude
“The joy of seeing patients who were on the verge of dying, receive life int heir lungs and walk out by themselves because of our work gives me so much joy,” said Macharia.
However, his big break came when the beyond zero mobile clinic truck was launched in Laikipia county. “I was supposed to be the custodian of the mobile clinic temporarily but they didn’t get a driver so I ended up managing it,” added Macharia.
“What gives me joy about this mobile clinic is that we have saved lives. The first place I visited with the mobile clinic was in Kiruri. Men who were hopeless because of the insurmountable challenges their wives faced to getting good health, women who were overwhelmed by pain among others have been saved because of this mobile clinic,” added Macharia.
Macharia says that he doesn’t desire riches, fame or glory. That even if he stopped working today, he still feels content that he has helped the community. He tells me that when people he has served come to say thank you, there is a deeper satisfaction that he gets.
Advice to young people
“I served a man who was diabetic in the wards when I was a cleaner. Sometimes I would use my money to buy him medicine when his family had delayed to come for the visit. I was earning Shs 2100 per month. Before he died, he called in his family during a get-together. And before his family, he gave me an acre of prime land as a gift of appreciation,”
“First, we shouldn’t despair in life, and two, we should play our part. Have passion in whatever you do especially that which you are good at. If you are selling a cup, do it diligently. Many people aren’t patient enough. They want things now. But it doesn’t always work like that. When we become committed to whatever we do, that’s the only time we will succeed. Though my brother was on the hospital’s board, I didn’t work like I had a kin there. In fact, I never asked for any favours from him. The moment I was employed, I became so diligent that I won the best employee award both in 2010 and 2011 in a row,” explained Macharia with a glow on his face.