Some of the most precious gems in the world come from Southern Africa. Diamonds, amethysts and emeralds are all mined here. But the greatest riches of this region are its people.
I met 87-year-old Violet, pictured above, in Zimbabwe, through my work with Christian Blind Mission. In spite of poverty and extraordinary personal loss – 11 of her 14 children have died – she is as sparkling and resilient as any diamond. But losing her sight left her struggling.
“I couldn’t look after the goat, do chores around the house, collect water from the village well or care for my grandchildren, who totally depend on me. My role in life – the only one I had ever known, caring – was taken away from me. I wasn’t just losing my sight, I was losing my identity. Worst of all, I couldn’t see the faces of my grandchildren.”
For four years, Violet was blind. Shockingly, this was completely unnecessary. Her blindness was caused by cataracts, which can be removed in a straightforward operation. But the nearest hospital where she could be treated was six hours by bus from her village. The bus fare was more than she could afford, let alone the cost of treatment. Such obstacles to accessing treatment are, unfortunately, commonplace for millions of people trapped in the cycle of poverty and disability.
But thanks to the love and support of friends and neighbours, who raised the money for her travel to hospital, I met Violet at Christian Blind Mission’s partner hospital Norton Eye Unit. It didn’t take long for Dr Ute Dibb and her team to identify cataracts in both of Violet’s eyes.
After four long years, she was about to see again. The morning after cataract surgery, a nurse carefully removed the bandage covering her eye. After a moment of silence, she cried out in joy. “Oh my, oh my! I can see, I can see! Praise God. Thank you! Do you hear me? I can see... May God bless those who have given my sight back.”
Violet then began a spontaneous, celebratory dance and clasped my hand in hers.
“Please say thank you to the people who have made this possible. May God bless them, for giving me my sight back.”
As I write this, and reflect on my encounter with Violet, I think to myself “There can’t be many things in life more precious than giving someone their sight back”.
Nobody should be needlessly blind. Sight restoring cataract surgery can cost as little as £24. The gift of sight is far more precious than diamonds.
David Taylor is Head of Partnerships and Philanthropy at Christian Blind Mission UK, a charity working to prevent blindness and transform the lives of people with disabilities in the world’s poorest places. Find out more and donate now at www.lightuplives.net or call 0800 567 7000.
More about Light up Lives
Give the gift of sight in the world’s poorest places by enabling people to access sight-restoring surgery, eye treatments and glasses.
Until 20th May 2021, every £1 given to Christian Blind Mission’s Light up Lives appeal will be doubled by the UK government.
A gift will Light up Lives for years to come. Sight-saving treatments like cataract surgery can restore independence and transform lives forever. Being able to see can mean the chance to go to school, get around safely and earn a living to support themselves and their family. And as well as funding life-changing treatments, donations will help train local health workers, equip hospitals and strengthen eye health systems for the future – this partnership with local hospitals and organisations will ensure that gifts have a lasting impact for years to come, helping to build communities where nobody becomes needlessly blind.