DCI is about wholistic community development. While our biggest program currently is our adult literacy course, our community health program continues to move ahead. Jabez, our health programs manager, runs radio talk shows on health issues in two different regions, and also school and community health programs. A few weeks ago we hosted an eye camp which served more than 1300 people in two regions of eastern Uganda.
A team of 14 optometrists, opticians, and other volunteers from VOSH-Northwest in Seattle came to visit us in Kapchorwa and Mbale to run a free optometry clinic which served people from nine counties. All 1360 patients got full screening, eye exams, eye health education, and hundreds of prescription eyeglasses were given out.
It takes a lot of preparation to make something like this happen. Months of negotiations and paperwork with county and national government offices, research on community needs, mobilizing patients, and complex logistical planning all had to happen before we even welcomed the visiting VOSH team at the airport.
DCI provided 14 volunteers at each location to directly assist the VOSH team, and another 10 to manage hosting and feeding. Ten intense 18 hour days after weeks of preparation was well worth it. Our team was thrilled to be a part of an event that dramatically helped so many people.
Keziah Nabalayo, who is 98 years old, says blindness has made her life meaningless, especially at her age. Keziah says all was fine until two years back when her eyes went blurry, up to now. She expressed her gratitude and believes the surgery will benefit her to a better level of sight and new life. “This condition has subjected me to disability, it is not easy” she said.
Our service is essential. Dr. Wamasebu, the District Health Officer for Manafwa, told our group that the entire area with hundreds of thousands of people has no trained ophthalmic officer (or optometrist.) Dr. Willow Thompson, leader of the VOSH team, challenged the local government, as well as DCI, to work together to bring services to the people who need them.
And so we have now hosted a cataract surgery campus well, hoping to help restore sight to more than one-hundred patients. The VOSH team raised nearly $5000 to cover much of the costs, and DCI negotiated services and organized and ran the camp.
Bilateral cataract patient, Dison Wambaya 60 year old can not just get over his happiness since his sight was restored. “I was abandoned by my own wife and nine children in a suburb in Tororo because I could not simply provide for them anymore now that I was blind. It breaks my heart.” Says Dison.
He is however positive that the successful surgery makes the start of what he termed as “Dison phase 2”. “I will work once again and provide for my 96 year old mother and my children”, he says. Dison is not so sure about his wife.
Among the cases too complex to deal with at the camp, we had 3 referrals who are boys of 4, 11, and 15 years old. David, Caleb, and Ibrah describe their blindness as a hinderance to a bright future since they are blocked from education. Their parents cannot sustain them in special needs schools. “I don’t feel like I have friends anymore since am left out even when they are playing”, Caleb cries. They simply need surgery, but we haven’t raised the funds yet.