Former UNL Grad Student Helps Disabled People Overseas

July 22, 2021, 7 p.m. ·

Koko Arm Wrestling.jpg
Rotary member Pat Birch arm wrestles Konan Blaise Koko at a fundraising event. (Photo courtesy Konan Blaise Koko)

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Konan Blaise Koko had a worldwide idea to help others suffering from a disease he knows well.

As a member of the Rotaract Club at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the nutrition graduate student pitched an idea to Lincoln Rotary 14 that has turned into a five-year project.

Koko, born and raised in the West African country Côte d'Ivoire, also known as the Ivory Coast, had the idea of raising $300 and sending a wheelchair to a polio victim in his home country. Now, the club has raised about $18,000 to send 120 wheelchairs from it’s manufacturing location in China to Côte d'Ivoire.

Koko suffered from polio as a child and said it was a challenging disease.

“I want to give a smile that can last a long time to people with the disability," he said "because I have been struggling getting a mobility means when I was back (in) my country, like I got my first wheelchair when I went to (the) university.”

Koko said he’s happy to help out those with disabilities in his home country.

“It's very hard to get a mobility means, like a wheelchair," he said. "Since (the) UNL Rotaract Club and Nebraska Rotary Club asked me to realize this project, I'm really, really excited.”

Keith Larsen of Rotary 14 said Koko’s idea was one of the best he’d heard and clubs around Lincoln were interested in helping.

“They were very supportive, as rotary clubs everywhere were," he said. "All of the clubs in Lincoln donated. When we went to the district meeting in Omaha, several other clubs donated.”

The wheelchairs are on their way from Shanghai, China and are expected to arrive in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire on August 20. Koko, who plans on attending medical school and is currently researching at a Canadian University, is planning to be there when the wheelchairs arrive and hopes the people receiving them will be as happy as he is right now.