|Posted on:||Thursday, 9th May, 2019|
I’m back in Cambridge after an incredible week in Rwanda – and Salomé is back at home with her daughter and grandchildren. Thanks to sight-restoring cataract surgery last week at our partner hospital, Kabgayi Eye Unit, she is able to see them clearly after years of needless blindness.
Salomé is an incredible woman, whose courage and resilience in the face of huge challenges has been inspiring to see. It has been a joy to get to know her - and she welcomed us with huge generosity and patience. Not everyone would be willing to share a week like this with strangers from across the world. She could have had her treatment without being questioned, photographed and filmed at each stage of her journey - and yet she gladly chose to share her story, keen to help people in the UK understand more about the huge challenges facing people with conditions like cataracts in Rwanda. As well as drawing great strength from the prayers and messages sent by CBM supporters, she was happy that her story will help others like her by helping raise funds for our See the Way appeal and delivering more eye health services in rural Rwanda.
There are plenty of facts and figures that clearly show why we need to do more to improve eye health services, particularly for the world’s poorest people: 75% of the world’s blindness is avoidable. Over half is due to cataracts, which can be treated with surgery costing as little as £24.In Rwanda, nearly 48,000 people are blind or visually impaired, mostly due to treatable or preventable conditions.
But for me, it’s the stories behind the statistics that make the most compelling case for action. That’s why we decided to embark on this “real-time” project, following one person’s story before, during and after cataract surgery. I’ve been lucky enough to meet people whose lives have been transformed by CBM. And we want our supporters to have the chance to get to know people like Salomé too: to hear their voices; to see how they face barriers and choices that most of us never will; but also to see how much we have in common.
And every day, technology is providing new ways for us to bring people closer together, connecting those who enable CBM’s work to happen with some of the people whose lives are changed as a result. So with just a small team (myself, photographer Daniel and interpreter Immaculée) and minimal equipment, we could share Salomé’s beaming smile as she realised she could see, just minutes after it happened. Within hours, people in the UK could witness her walking independently through the hospital and hear her first impressions. I did my first live radio interview from a Rwandan mountain, sharing the latest news on Salomé’s return home with Premier Christian Radio listeners…and a few passing goats. And we could access supporters messages for Salomé online, reading them to her and her family before surgery, then showing her the prayers, and even video and photos of supporters sending her messages.
It was an enormous privilege to spend a week with Salomé, with her determination and resilience, and also her wonderful smile and infectious laugh. It’s made me very proud to be part of the CBM family – and if you’re one of the many supporters who helped make Salomé’s surgery, and so many others, happen, I hope you feel that pride too.Back