What would you miss if you lost your sight? I’m looking through my window at Autumn pulling on her beautiful dress, sharing her bounty and at Summer having one final fling and I know it would break my heart not to see these colours. I’d miss lying on my back under the apple tree, gazing up at blue sky and I’d miss seeing the sun setting over the sea when we’re anchored off Studland. I’d miss forests with dappled light, waves crashing on the shore. I’d miss the mountains of Wales and the gentle rolling countryside of Somerset. I’d miss the independence of driving to where I want to be, reading a book, writing on my laptop. The more I think about it, the more I’d miss. Most of all I’d miss the faces of the people I love, their smiles, their laughter, their silent tears. I’d miss being able to see what they feel, written in their eyes or the droop of their shoulders. I’d miss seeing them growing up.
My Mum is struggling with her sight at the moment. She has a cataract which is beginning to impinge on her daily life and, in a few weeks time, I will be driving her to hospital to have it removed so she can see clearly again. It’s a simple operation which transforms lives which is why I am backing the new Sightsavers #MillionMiracles campaign. Join us and See the Miracle.
Sightsavers A Million Miracles – #SeeTheMiracle
Today, Sightsavers are launching an ambitious major appeal, Million Miracles, to raise £30million by 2018 in order to deliver 1 million cataract operations in some of the poorest parts of the world.
The ‘Million Miracles’ launch event is an innovative, live digital storytelling event that will, via LIVE Google Hangouts from Malawi, Africa and traditional media & other social media channels, take the global audience on an emotional and inspiring journey. It will show what impact Sightsavers work has and it will allow us to See the Miracle.
You’ll meet Mr Winesi who, due to bilateral cataracts, has been totally blind for two years. He has never seen his grandson Luca, and misses seeing his beautiful wife Namaleta. He can no longer work and provide for his family. In a few months their food stores will run out and they will go hungry as he is unable to work.
It needn’t be this way. All it takes is a 5 minute operation that costs £30 pounds to change his life, and the lives of his family.
Join us on the 8th October at 1.30 UK time as one of the few cataract surgeons in Malawi delivers the 5 minute life-changing operation. Hosted by UK YouTuber star Doug Armstong you’ll meet Mr Winesi, and all the health worker heroes delivering this vital work.
Malawi has just 1 eye surgeon for every 4.25 million people and Dr Gerald, who is performing the surgery on Mr Winesi, is the only paediatric surgeon in the whole of Malawi.
Over the next week I will be introducing you to the different characters you can expect to meet at this story unfolds – the people behind the #seethemiracle hashtag – today I want to share Winesi’s story as he prepares to see again.
“I imagine what my wife looks like, but I can’t remember”
The road to Kalima is undulating, incredibly bumpy and full of ditches and boulders to swerve round. We drive for 40 minutes up some bone-jarringly bumpy roads, then park the car and walk for about a mile through farm land until we hear rushing water, and make our way towards a fast-flowing river. “Mr Winesi lives up there.” We’re pointed towards the top of a big hill – in the bright light we can see the silhouette of an old man moving hesitantly around the outside of a house, feeling his way with his hands. This is the man we’ve come to meet. We take off our shoes, roll up our trousers and wade across the river. Winesi March is happy to talk to us, and as we chat a few of his family members gather around, including his wife Namaleta. He’s 69 years old, he says – or 70; he’s not entirely sure. He’s respectfully known by everyone here as Winesi. He has a contagious chuckle, and we instantly warm to him. But it’s apparent that the last few years have been tough for him, and for his family. His sight has been declining for more than a decade. Three years ago he could still make out the path and get around, and was working on his farm planting and hoeing. Two years ago his vision got a lot worse, and he’s been totally blind since then. He can’t work anymore – occasionally he forces himself to try, but it usually ends in injury (the day we meet him, he has an injured finger from tripping on a tree stump). His typical day used to be full of activity; now when he wakes he waits for his family to help him, and then he sits on his mat. Sometimes he changes location, but he needs help to move the mat. If he needs the toilet, or wants to prepare food, he needs someone to guide him. There are times when everyone is out and Winesi doesn’t have peace of mind. Losing his sight has knocked his confidence and he can’t relax because he worries that if someone came to assault him he wouldn’t know. “I am scared of being attacked and there not being anyone to protect me.” This isn’t his only fear. He worries that there’s nobody to support the family, and feels he should be able to provide for them. He misses his role as breadwinner. Namaleta and the children do what they can, but it’s a struggle, and when the food they have harvested currently is finished, he doesn’t know what they’ll do to get by. A lot of extra pressure is on Namaleta, who now shoulders the responsibility of work and keeps the household running. “I relied on him so much, to provide for the family, but now he can’t do anything. I have to do everything – finding food, making sure the children go to school. It’s painful having to do both roles. I would be so excited and so relieved to get back to normal life.” Winesi misses being able to see the faces of his family. He thinks he hasn’t seen his wife’s face properly for about 12 years. “I imagine what she looks like but I can’t remember that well.” He also has an 18-month-old grandson, Lucas, who he’s never seen. When we ask him how he’d feel if his sight was restored, he laughs and tells us he’d take up his hoe and jump up and down: “When I have sight I will run to town and buy my wife a new dress and shoes so she will look beautiful!” He’s been waiting a while for cataract surgery. Madalitso, the ophthalmic clinical officer who met him while on an outreach visit to the area, advised him to go for screening at the hospital a few months ago, but he couldn’t make it because Namaleta was sick and he couldn’t get to the screening without assistance. He’s not nervous about the operation; he’s desperate to get back to work and is excited about the possibility of seeing the faces of his family again. The sense of excitement among Winesi’s family and our team is infectious – it’s amazing to think that after the struggles he’s had in the past few years, an operation on 8 October that might take as little as 10 minutes could change everything.
Join me again on Saturday to see how Mr Winesi’s sight loss affects his family and the impact is has had upon all their lives.
Then, on Wednesday 8 October, watch with me as we peep in on the operation and on Thursday when we #SeeTheMiracle as the bandages come off and Mr Winesi can see his lovely family once again.
What Can You Do To Help?
- Please share this post as widely as you can so we can ensure as many people as possible see this groundbreaking digital storytelling project unfold.
- If you are a blogger and you are moved to post in support or to carry the blogger badge in your sidebar, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get a blogger pack out to you!
- Watch the live broadcasts and share widely on social media as you do so (widget to help you do this will be here very soon!)
- Follow Sightsavers campaign and DONATE here
- Follow Sightsavers on Twitter and Facebook and keep up to date with all the behind the scenes action by following Liz Scarff and Fieldcraft – the team behind the techy stuff! You can follow me too as I share the posts written by bloggers across the UK!