For an industry that heavily relies on sound to get attention, it is amazing that Denish Komakech has succeeded as a boda boda rider despite of the fact that he has a hearing impairment. With ease, Komakech, 35, hoots and slows down when he sees a potential customer.
A resident of Oguru village in Bardege Division, Gulu Municipality, Komakech’s warmth and friendliness and body language have spoken louder than any horn.
Using an interpreter, Daily Monitor managed to get his story.
According to his mother, Christine Apio, Komakech had normal hearing up to the age of two when he suffered from severe measles, a disease that affected his hearing ability.
“When I realised that his hearing was failing, I sought medical aice but sadly, there was nothing that could be done” she says.
Because she could not afford to give him any special attention, she enrolled him in public primary school.
However, teachers found it hard to communicate with him because he had a hearing impairment. In spite of this setback, he persisted in school but after a while, he dropped out.
This marked the end of his dreams of becoming a mechanical engineer.
Komakech is not chewing on sour grapes either. He says he comes from a polygamous background and his father, a peasant farmer, could barely meet the basic needs at home.
“My father had two wives and 13 children which made it hard for him to take care of us,” he says.
How it all begun
Asked how he finally ended up in the boda boda business, Komakech says he started with small scale farming in 2002 so as to look after his ageing parents.
But this was not fetching much. Thankfully his luck changed when friends connected him to a soda depot in Gulu town to work as a casual labourer.
The father of two says he worked at the deport for 10 years until he decided to quit in 2014 , due to the heavy workload.
Probably he would have soldiered on but Komakech claims people were taking aantage of his impairment.
He says while others were paid Shs50,000 to offload a truck, he would be paid between Shs10,000 and Shs15,000 for the same job.
But with nowhere else to turn to, Komakech decided to save his money and do something worthwhile.
When he finally quit, he had saved Shs2.5m. With that, he was able to buy his first motorbike.
He says he worked for one year then donated this motorcycle to his elder brother.
He got a loan from the bank and topped it with his savings and bought two motorcycles. This was the best investment he ever made because it has changed his life. He says he is glad he made the move.
Komakech has been able to buy a grinding mill worth Shs4m. His younger brother manages this mill in Ajulu village, Patiko Sub-county. This investment makes between Shs150,000 and Shs300,000 every week.
These enterprises have enabled Komakech to keep his siblings in school, take care of his parents as well as manage his home.
He is building some huts in the village so that his family is well accommodated when they visit his parents.
Komakech hopes to buy a plot of land in town and build a permanent structure for his family.
He plans to expand the grinding mill since the customers are more than what the machine capacity can handle.
All is not rosy for Komakech. At times, the people he carries refuse to pay him.
“When some of them realise that I have a hearing impairment, they either give me less money or nothing at all,” he says.
He says at times, some customers shun his services because of being unable to talk back.
Komakech says at times he is given unfair fines by traffic officers because he cannot explain himself out.
He aises people with handicaps not to venture into business and not wallow in self-pity.
What others say
Concy Achieng, Komakech’s wife, who also has a hearing impairment, says her husband is caring, loving and above all, responsible.
“We met eight years ago and have stayed together without any disturbance in our marriage. My husband is saving for our traditional marriage so that we can make things official.”
Achieng says she supplements the family income through tilling.
Doreen Akello, a regular customer, says that whenever she uses Komakech’s services, she directs him until they get to the destination.
According to Peter Ebamu, a boda- boda rider at the same stage, Komakech is a social and hardworking man who takes his job seriously.
“He is always the first person to arrive at the stage, he is disciplined and that is why many people like him,” he says.
Santo Dwoka, the chairman Gulu Disabled Cooperative Group, Komakech’s bold move to join a business dominated by able bodied persons is a challenge to idle youths who have resorted to begging.
“Most unemployed and idle youth have continue to complain that there no jobs yet many of them target white collar jobs which are few compared to the population”, he says.
He aises able bodied people in the community to change their attitudes towards disabled persons, since they too can do most jobs given the opportunity to them.
Caroline Rose Adong the LC5 Councillor Gulu District, representing persons with disabilities aises youth to emulate Komakech’s attributes of a diligent and hardworking person instead of engaging in dubious activities in order to earn a living.
How he operates
Asked how he manages to survive in the business, Komakech says when he is transporting a customer, he will either ask him or her to write down his destination on a
piece of paper or the customer will direct him as they go along .
He adds that he ensures that he follows road safety rules and making good use of side mirrors while riding since he can’t hear sounds from other road users.
“I also make sure that I service my motorcycle every week to make sure there are no mechanical problems.”
Komakech’s second motorcycle is hired out and this fetches him Shs50,000 per week.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor