Lufthansa Cargo supports a blind marathon runner from Kenya
He became Paralympic champion over 5000 metres in Sydney. In 2005, he ran the marathon distance in Hamburg in 2:31:31. No man with this handicap had ever run faster. Henry Wanyoike is blind. To enable him to master the needs of everyday life in his native village near Nairobi even better, Lufthansa Cargo is flying two boxer puppies from Hanover to Kenya free of charge.
It was a night which turned his life upside down. During the nighttime hours of 30th April to 1st May 1995, Henry suffers a stroke. He is just 21 and full of plans. His strong and foresighted mother had urged him to attend the secondary school. He completes an apprenticeship as a shoemaker, opens a shoe shop, and then fate strikes. Henry Wanyoike goes blind as the result of a stroke. Nothing is that way it used to be any more. Deep sadness paralyzes his will and robs his legs of the strength to even stand. He spends two years in a wheelchair in the depths of depression.
Fortunately in Henry’s home town of Kikuyu there is a hospital, in which the Christoffel Blind Mission operates a department. The colleagues find a contact to the despairing young man. After only a short time, a new zest for life awakens in Henry. Petra Verweyen, his therapist at that time still smiles today when she quotes Henry's words way back then in his native Swahili dialect: "Imara kama simba". He will become "strong as a lion". And then Henry Wanyoike adds: "I want to become the fastest blind runner".
He trained on the plains and highlands of his native country. And although he steadily ran faster and faster, he always found a guide who ran faster than him and led him through the wilderness using a narrow band attached to his arm. At that time he ran the marathon in just under three hours. In Kenya there are thousands of runners who have no problem in running times of less than 2:30. And as he gradually got closer to the 2:40 mark, there were still enough athletes who could lead him because as runners who could see in the country of fantastic distance runners, they had best times in the 2:20 range. His ambition drove him onwards. "I have lost my eyesight, but I never lost my vision", is how he later summarized his philosophy of life. With this message, since then Henry has travelled extensively in Kenya, but also in many other countries all over the world. His motto: "You can do whatever you want, you must simply really believe in yourself". He has run in Boston and Bonn, Hong Kong and Hamburg, London, Mumbai, Singapore or Vienna. He collected donations and prize money which, cent for cent, he transferred back to Kenya in order to help the poor and disadvantaged there.
His own youth in the slum of Kikuyu, the mother who in fact sent him to school against his will and who was ultimately proved to have been right, had allowed the blind Henry to recognize "that the keys to a better future are education and health". Many illnesses in Kenya can be explained by poverty and malnutrition. Therefore, with the money that he has earned through his victories, as well as the donations which are received by the Henry Wanyoike Foundation, he has initiated the construction of a nursery school. As of January next year, 90 children aged 3 - 5 years will be prepared for primary school.
"He gives everything for the others", says Regina Bühne, Chairwoman of the "Freundeskreis Henry Wanyoike e.V." from Wedemark near Hanover. For himself, he simply wants "a long life and a dog". At least one of his two wishes has already been fulfilled now. A dog breeder from Hänigsen is giving Henry two boxer puppies, because the two of them from the same brood are absolutely inseparable. A veterinary surgeon has carried out the necessary vaccinations free of charge, an animal lover donated the transport boxes and Lufthansa Cargo flew the dogs to Nairobi free of charge.