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Daring divers of Cheploch take plunge for others’ lives

Team of 15 divers are called to conduct search and rescue missions at Kerio Valley River and surrounding areas. During holidays they meet at a 70-metre deep gorge to thrill tourists to earn money for school fees

Judith Kemei @PeopleDailyKE

The acrobatic moves they make in the air before plunging into the water is breathtaking. Those travelling from Eldoret to Kabarnet always stop at the Cheploch Gorge, on the frontier of Elgeyo Marakwet and Baringo counties at a place called Oinobmoi to catch a glimpse of these daring divers.

What they do is risky: They jump from a 70-metre deep gorge made up of rocks into the crocodile-infested Kerio Valley River all in the name of earning their keep.

One wrong move could be fatal. The courageous divers have been doing this job to eke out a living and also to educate themselves.

Philip Kipkemboi, a student at the University of Eldoret and the divers team leader, says he has been doing the job to raise his school fees since he joined secondary school, especially during holidays when the business is at its peak. “We are a team of 15 divers in the area.

We were 17 when we started but unfortunately we lost two of our colleagues two years ago on this gorge while diving,” says Kipkemboi.

On a good day the divers make up to Sh2,000, which they use to sustain their families and save to pay school fees. They responded to 15 emergency rescue missions last year.

The latest rescue mission was at Kirandich Dam in Baringo Central where they retrieved the body of a 25-year-old man who drowned while on a swimming expedition. If you thought that all one needs is guts to get into the diving business, you are wrong.

Kipkemboi says before diving one needs courage, concentration and the ability to make calculated moves, in addition to training and experience. The divers have been in the business for seven years.

They do not fear crocodiles in the river because they tend to move away because of the disturbance caused when they jump into the water.

Another diver, Jeremiah Kosgei ,says they decided to learn diving to create self-employment and the job helps them realise their dreams unlike other youth who idle around waiting for white collar jobs or in illicit alcohol dens.

John Kimutai, a farmer in the area ,praises the divers because they scare away crocodiles that used to attack their livestock. Kimutai urges other youths not to be selective when choosing jobs, but rather engage in useful activities, which can bring food to their tables.

Shella Muge, a resident notes that the divers have helped a lot in rescue missions in the area and their skills should not be underrated, but should they be trained on how to handle risks.

The divers are now calling on Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet county governments to create for them a disaster management unit and also to provide them with protective gear so as to reduce the risk during diving. They are also asking the county government to give them formal employment so that they can be responding to emergencies.

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