Helping Hands: Supporting the Blind in Kenya
April 2015, Kenya
More than 224,000 people are affected by blindness in the country of Kenya. Despite this proliferation, however, most ophthalmological services are located in urban areas, leaving rural areas in need of support. Embracing the World aims to fill this void, organizing regular medical camps, sending volunteer doctors to impoverished areas for on-site medical examinations and treatment.
Visual Aids for Blind Youth
One year ago, AYUDH member Matthias Hofeld, as well as other European youth, initiated the White C(r)ane Project. The project aims to make life easier for young blind people in Kenya by raising awareness and fundraising for visual aids.
During the first phase, AYUDH members distributed 300 canes to young blind students in Kenya. Driven by a desire to maintain this relationship with young blind people in Kenya, The White C(r)ane Project has moved on to the next phase of this project. The project recognizes that the children in Kenya are still growing, and may need to exchange their cane for properly sized aids later. The kids and their parents also received a letter in writing and in Braille explaining how to make best use of their new visual aid
Since the initial 300, AYUDH members have been able to raise funds for an additional 70 canes to be given. Our volunteers in Kenya worked diligently with the African Braille Institute to find the most suitable and best quality canes. Once they were obtained, a special ceremony was held on April 11th, 2015 at the Thika Primary School of the visually impaired. It was led by Amma’s senior disciple Br. Shubamrita who handed over the new canes.
The ceremony emphasized the dreams and ambitions of these young people, and incorporated their artistic and musical skills. Together, the blind youth composed a song to express their gratitude towards Amma and Embracing the World.
In the next phase of the project, volunteers in Kenya will periodically visit the blind children, making sure that their canes are in good condition. Our volunteers aim to expand the project, scaling it to other schools for the blindacross Kenya.
Surgical Outreach for Rural Residents
For the fourth time, our Embracing the World volunteers teamed up with “Stop Blindness” and “Vision without Borders” in a campaign to prevent blindness. Led by Isabel Maria Signes Soler from Spain, the team of volunteers conducted 154 surgeries at the Busia Public Hospital between April 10th and 19th, 2015.
Busia County is a rural area of Kenya, on the Uganda border. Local ophthalmologists selected patients through cataracts prescreening and other ambulatory procedures. The patients were extremely grateful to receive the comprehensive free treatment.
Most of the resulting surgeries were to remove cataracts, although other eye problems were also treated, such as Pterigium and Conjunctival Melanoma. Young patients aged 9-13 years were also surgically treated for traumatic cataracts. Presbyopia, a correctable eye condition, was widespread among those examined, and corrective reading glasses were given to the affected patients free of charge.
One elderly woman told the doctors that both of her two children had died, and now she was living alone with no one to help her. Her life had become extremely difficult, as her vision had greatly deteriorated. Her vision was less than 10% of normal in both eyes. The team performed cataract surgeries on each eye. After her successful surgeries, she danced with joy right in the operating room.
Another eye patient was a woman suffering from leprosy who could barely walk. She received surgery for both eyes and was overjoyed to regain her lost vision.
The governor of Busia County, Hon. Sospeter Odeke Ojaamong met with the doctors and expressed his heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for their hard work and dedication. Overall, this on-the-ground volunteer work was a reciprocal effort: both the volunteers and patients made heartfelt connections and experienced joy in the power of sight.