Eye Care Kenya
Testimonials from Villagers
Betty is a villager who was diagnosed with HIV; though she is doing well with her treatment, clean water is essential for her survival. Because of this, she was one of the first people in the village to receive a chlorinator. During the last trip to Kenya, it was discovered that Betty was doing well with the chlorinator. In fact, she is also helping six other families by distributing clean water to them as well.
Alestar woke up early in the morning to begin his journey. He had been told eye doctors were visiting the clinic in Kipkaren and his grandmother, his Gogo, had been squinting for months. He pressed his pants the night before, so he would not waste the morning light. He could hear the rain falling lightly on the metal roof of his small hut and he tucked his pant legs into his socks, so they would not be muddied and caked in the red clay.
He walked, he took a bus and he walked a little more. It took him over an hour to reach his Grandmother’s house in Nagong Hills. When he arrived, she was patiently waiting for him. Her small frame draped in a long purple skirt, she wore a black Nike stocking cap to keep the morning cold from her ears. In one hand, she held a knotted wooden cane that supported her like a wise, arthritic finger, her other arm wrapped around her grandson’s youth for support.
They walked slowly to the bus stop. The bus would be able to take them close to the clinic, but there was still more walking to do when it stopped. Alestar began to worry they would miss their chance to see the doctors. Heavy rains from the night before had soaked the clay roads into mud and Gogo’s cane kept getting stuck. When the bus dropped them off, Alestar rented a bicycle porter to carry gogo on the back of the bike. Alestar walked beside them to the clinic. At 9 a.m., grandma and grandson were climbing the incline leading to the clinic doors. People were already lined up waiting to be seen, but there were open spaces to sit on the wooden benches.
When it was their turn, he helped her into the clinic and took an old, worn, yellow booklet out of his backpack. It was his grandmother’s medical history, recorded in Swahili, in no particular order across the pages. “See,” he said pointing to a few penciled markings, “that is where it says blindness.”
After the appointment, Alestar stood talking with some of the men waiting to be seen, Gogo rested in the grass underneath the shade of the large tree in the front lawn. New gold frames sat on her nose.
A young woman approached her there, as she sat in the grass, and asked her how she was doing. Gogo turned toward the girl and bringing her weathered fingers to her eyes, she touched the frames.“This,” she said, tapping the glasses, “This is God.” And a knowing smile crept across her windswept face.
Imagine yourself at the age of 17, a single blade of grass or a single leaf on a tree didn’t exist and one day you discovered the world in a new light by being given the gift of sight. This was 17 year old Mary, brought to us in Eldoret by her mother and father for an eye exam. The examination proved she was visually impaired, so we supplied her the exact prescription. Immediately the young lady began to smile, while repeatedly taking her glasses off and on. You could feel the excitement welling up when she saw her mom waving at her from a distance or her classmates up ahead. The realization she had one less challenge in her future, a future of endless possibilities, made the experience worth while. The very next day, her mother wanted to tell us that all the way home, Mary was giggling with her dad about all the things she could see—like leaves on trees and the sunset on the horizon. Her mother wanted to let us know that Mary was the brightest of all her children and she would be able to further her future in higher education. She continued to smile while telling us her daughter expressed interest in becoming a doctor!
The gift of sight is not age specific, young and old derive much pleasure in being able to see. While in Kipkaren on the last day, our team met Henry. Henry was 56 years of age and had numerous visual imparities including bilateral cataracts. Minimally, we accessed his needs with the limited resources available and were able to manufacture an exact prescription. Immediately placing the glasses on the bridge of his nose, an enormous smile resided. Instantaneously he jumped up and began to sing and dance. He rushed out to the many waiting to be examined and feverishly told them how wonderful it was to be able to see.
The expedition was reaching its end, and time was running out for us to see more patients. However, the greatest measure of the expedition’s success was given when we overheard Julius, our trained local Kenyan, tell a patient "not to worry, come back tomorrow and I will be able to do your eye exam". When we returned home, we received communication from Julius stating he was seeing almost 15 patients a day only 1 week after we had left. Not only that, but some patients were traveling nearly 3 hours one-way to see Julius. This is when we realized we helped sustain a village with continued hope. In keeping with the motto of the Kenyan people, "Harambee": "Let’s pull together."
The 2006 Eye Care Kenya expedition supplied over 300 eye examinations. Many of the patients were able to receive their exact prescription glasses on site. Due to Kevin requiring such a special need prescription, we had to manufacture his glasses in the states. The eyeglasses were shipped to him directly, and when the orphanage received the package they looked at the name and strength, and knew it had to be Kevin’s glasses. The orphanage went and found him at school, and he was thrilled with his new glasses.