|Leah Achiyo massages a client. [Photo: Evans Habil/Standard]|
By Lucianne Limo
Her parents and siblings abandoned her when she went blind after a measles attack. Leah Achiyo, 24, was not born blind but when tragedy struck, the only family she knew dumped her at grandmother’s house in Kapenguria.
“I come from Pokot and my community do not value education and being a girl my father knew I would make him rich by marrying me off,” she said. “But when I turned blind, my father lost hope because he knew he won’t get cows since no one would want to marry a blind girl,” she said.
On hindsight, Achiyo admits the best thing that has ever happened to her was becoming blind, saying she has acquired a special skill she says she would not have otherwise stumbled upon if she was sighted.
She is a professional Shiatsu masseuse (physiotherapist) at Lelesta Salon along Ngong’ Road.
And she is not alone. They are about 15 masseuses who earn a living from Shiatsu massage and are working in various hotels, salons, and gyms.
They were the first batch to be trained for one year by a Japanese trainer Tomoe Shimizu at Machakos Technical Institute for the Blind. Whereas some people become automatically dependent on others when they become visually impaired, or physically challenged, Achiyo’s case is different as she strangely confesses that her blindness was a ticket to being independent.
“I am grateful to God for making me blind because I am now independent. I have two kids and my husband takes care of them and the proceeds from Shiatsu feeds and clothes us,” she says. “I come from a family of seven and yet none of my siblings has gone to school and because of my blindness, I was able to study and now enjoying my sweat,” she says proudly.
Shiatsu is a Japanese massage technique that focuses on the acupuncture pressure points in the body.
Even though this technique involves applying finger pressure, this massage technique is relaxing and relieves stress.
Fully clothed clients
Achiyo says first time clients are always apprehensive especially when she tells them she performs the massage on a client when fully dressed.