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12 Days of Christmas: highlights of 2021

Posted on: Saturday, December 25th, 2021

As we look back on 2021, we wanted to share with you some of the most heart-warming moments of our year. So for the 12 days of Christmas, we’re delighted to bring you 12 stories featuring the individuals from around the world who have most inspired us this year.

Thank you for being part of the CBM family this year!

On the 1st day of Christmas…

Paul and Mary can see again!

Paul from Zimbabwe, wearing an eye patch over his right eye and smiling.

Mary from Zimbabwe, wearing an eye patch over her right eye and smiling.

Paul and Mary from Zimbabwe had both been living needlessly blind until cataract surgery at our partner hospital in Zimbabwe restored their sight, in April. They kindly agreed to share their stories with us so that supporters in the UK could witness the life-changing impact of eye treatment. As part of our Light up Lives UK Aid Match appeal, we shared a week of live updates via social media and email, following Paul and Mary’s journeys from blindness to sight. Thank you for joining us for this life-changing week.

Watch Paul and Mary’s stories:


Thanks to your generosity, and match funding from the UK government, our Light up Lives appeal raised an incredible £2.3 million to prevent blindness and restore sight in the world’s poorest places. Find out more.

On the 2nd day of Christmas…

We give thanks for humanitarian heroes during COVID-19

Man in a red CBM t-shirt hands a man using crutches 2 food parcels.

Throughout the pandemic, our partners have been working on the frontline to deliver emergency aid to those most at risk, including people with disabilities and their families. This includes providing food, medicine, hygiene items and accessible information, to help protect people from the virus and support families during periods of lockdown and isolation. We work alongside Organisations of People with Disabilities (OPDs) to ensure that no one is left behind in response efforts.

See some of our frontline workers in action in our blog! (open in new tab)

It’s thanks to your unwavering support, even during such challenging times, that this has been possible. Find out more about our response in Nepal (open in new tab), Indonesia (open in new tab) and Bangladesh (open in new tab).

On the 3rd day of Christmas…

Margaret Weir’s walk raises over £2500 to Light up Lives!

Margaret standing outside with her walker.

In May 2021, 86-year-old Margaret Weir from Brighton set herself the challenge of walking 1,000 steps every day for a week, to help restore sight and Light up Lives in the world’s poorest places. Read more about Margaret’s story (open in new tab).

“I’m doing this in the spirit of Captain Tom. I’ve had good sight for most of my life, it’s only recently that it has deteriorated quickly but I’m coming towards the end of my life. I’m thinking of people in the developing world who are younger, who have eye disease and cataracts. They have a long life ahead of them. It would be wonderful if their sight could be restored so they can support their families by earning a living, benefiting others in their community. It makes me happy to think that others who can benefit will be helped” said Margaret.

We’ve been overwhelmed by the dedication of our supporters this year and there are so many more stories, just like Margaret’s, that we’ve been blessed to hear about and share with you. Take a look back through our Facebook page (open in new tab) to recap these heart-warming moments.

On the 4th day of Christmas…

Dr Heiko Philippin’s glaucoma trial results could pave the way for better sight-saving treatment

Dr Heiko Philippin sat next to a laser machine, smiling.

Dr Philippin is an Ophthalmologist who was based at our partner hospital Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC) in Tanzania 2009-2018. During that time, he conducted a medical trial which shows that laser treatment could be significantly more effective than eye drops in managing glaucoma, and can be affordable in low-income settings.

The eye condition glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in adults worldwide. Rates in Sub-Saharan Africa are the highest for any world region and are predicted to nearly double by 2040.

The study was conducted through a research partnership between KCMC and the International Centre for Eye Health (ICEH) and was funded by CBM and Seeing is Believing (a collaboration between Standard Chartered Bank and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, which concluded in 2020). Results of the trial were published in Lancet Global Health on World Sight Day (14th October) and could pave the way for significant improvements in treatment for glaucoma in Sub-Saharan Africa. Find out more (open link in new tab).

On the 5th day of Christmas…

Haova from Madagascar can now feed her family

Haova sat inside her home, smiling.

Back-to-back droughts in southern Madagascar have left more than a million people on the verge of starvation, with families resorting to eating insects, leaves and cactus plants to survive. As always in times of crises, people with disabilities and their families are among those most vulnerable – and the least likely to access emergency help. Thanks to your support, we’ve been able to respond to the world’s first climate-induced food crisis (according to the UN).

Haova is a mother of three who has a physical disability, which means she relies on her children to collect water and walking is painful. After months of struggling to provide food for her family, she’s now able to feed her children and also earn a living to support them into the future – thanks to people like you.

Your generous gifts are providing a lifeline to 1,100 families, enabling them to access food, water, medication, soap and other essentials. Haova has set up a small business making doughnuts that she sells in her village and has been able to purchase a laying hen to provide eggs. Despite the current difficulties, she is hopeful for the future. Find out more about our inclusive response in Madagascar (open link in new tab).

On the 6th day of Christmas…

Gill and Peter Godber held a sight-saving garden party

Gill and Peter Godber cutting the cake, with a CBM logo printed on

To mark World Sight Day (14th October), Cambridge-based CBM volunteers Gill and Peter Godber held a garden party, raising vital funds to prevent blindness in the world’s poorest places.

Over 40 people attended the ‘Together’ event, which raised over £600 as well as raising awareness about avoidable blindness and CBM’s sight-saving work. The afternoon included tea and cake and a fun sing-along, thanks to the musical talents of Peter leading on piano.

Gill and Peter have been CBM supporters and volunteers for more than a decade and, in spite of recent health challenges, still inspire us with their enthusiasm and passion for helping others.

Churches across the UK also took part in Christian Blind Mission Sunday (17th October), in the week of World Sight Day, to learn, pray and give to help restore sight to children living with preventable blindness in some of the world’s poorest places. Find out more about CBM Sunday (open link in new tab).

On the 7th day of Christmas…

Mental health advocates from Kenya and Malawi challenge stigma

Mental Wealthness Campaign video shoot session with students from Kenyatta University

For over 15 years, CBM has been working to improve the lives of people with mental health conditions in the worlds’ poorest places – working in partnership with communities, health authorities and people with lived experience. These strong partnerships are ensuring lasting change, improving mental health awareness and support.

As our 2-year project supporting mental health and wellbeing of university students in Kenya came to a close in May 2021, we celebrated its achievements – particularly innovative adaptations during the Coronavirus pandemic – and our fantastic partnership with Fundació Nous Cims, Basic Needs Basic Rights Kenya and Kenyatta and Chuka universities. Find out more and meet some of our mental health champions in Kenya (open link in new tab).

For the past 3 years, thanks to funding from Comic Relief we’ve been working with the Mental Health Users and Carers Association (MeHUCA) in Malawi to improve community-based support for people with mental health conditions. The project has now finished but has had a positive impact on the lives of 1,628 people with mental health conditions, and will have a lasting impact for community mental health services and individuals that use them. Find out more and meeting some of the MeHUCA members in Malawi (open link in new tab).

On the 8th day of Christmas…

Irene Ojiugo tells us about how improving economic empowerment is preventing violence

Irene Ojiugo, Executive Director DRAC, speaking at a training session.

Irene Ojiugo is Executive Director of CBM’s partner Disability Rights Advocacy Centre (DRAC) in Nigeria. Together through our Break the Cycle project – funded by the UK government scheme – DRAC and CBM are reducing violence against women and girls with disabilities in Nigeria by helping them to become more economically independent. Find out more from Irene Ojiugo in this Q&A (open link in new tab).

On International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November), we joined with individuals and organisations around the world to campaign for the elimination of violence against women and girls.

“Money stops nonsense!” – Lawal, Nigeria

As part of our Break the Cycle project, we’re setting up Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) to help women start their own businesses and cover expenses like school fees for their children, food and medical bills. Hear from some of women who have joined these groups (open link in new tab).

On the 9th day of Christmas…

We introduced you to inclusive climate action experts

Three of the panel of experts speaking at CBM's COP26 event, sat on stage.

In November 2021, we attended COP26 – the annual UN climate conference, or “Conference of Parties” alongside our Disability Movement partners, to ensure that disability inclusion is not overlooked in climate action. We had a stall in the green zone and hosted an online event featuring a panel of experts in climate change, mental health and inclusion.

Watch ‘An inclusive planet: inclusion, mental health and climate change’ (opens in new tab).

People with disabilities, especially those living in poverty, are among those hardest hit by climate change. Urgent action is needed to respond to this global crisis and people with disabilities must be meaningfully included. Find out more about CBM’s inclusive climate action (open link in new tab).

On the 10th day of Christmas…

Women in Nigeria, like Olubunmi, are freed from fistula!

Olubunmi sat on a bed, smiling,

For 27 years, Olubunmi lived with fistula. Childbirth complications left her with a hole in her birth canal, unable to control urine. The experience was traumatic, it changed her life, her ability to earn an income and how she relates with people.

Fistula is a debilitating condition affecting women and girls, causing incontinence and leaving them prone to infection. It is usually the result of prolonged labour and lack of maternal healthcare in low- and middle-income countries.

On Giving Tuesday (30th November) we launched our Big Give Christmas Challenge, to deliver life-changing fistula treatment in Nigeria and help women rebuild their lives. Thanks to your amazing generosity, our appeal raised £45,000 to free women living with devastating fistula. Find out more about the Big Give (open in tab).

On the 11th day of Christmas…

We join with people with disabilities in calling for a #BetterWorldForAll after COVID-19

A group of women with disabilities in Vanuatu, stood outside in front of a tree.

COVID-19 has had a catastrophic impact on the lives and well-being of people with disabilities. On International Day of People with Disabilities (3rd December), we joined people with disabilities around the world to campaign for a world where people with disabilities are fully included in all COVID-19 response and recovery efforts and in all decision making. Find out more (open in new tab).

Watch this film to hear from 11 people with disabilities as they share their experiences of the pandemic and their hopes for a more inclusive world:


“We know that we (people with disabilities) are the most at-risk in any disaster. We need to make sure that communication is inclusive, and information reaches everybody.” Nelly, Vanuatu

CBM UK and our partners worldwide have been working throughout the pandemic to ensure that the voices of people with disabilities are heard and that they can access vital support. Working alongside local disability organisations and other partners across Africa and Asia, our focus has been on ensuring that people with disabilities can access vital information and equipment to keep themselves safe during the pandemic, and that they have the support they need to cope during the crisis.

On the 12th day of Christmas…

Diane Louise Jordan supports Christmas Miracles campaign

Diane Louise Jordan holding Etienne up in the air, smiling.

We’re thrilled that broadcaster Diane Louise Jordan is supporting our Christmas Miracles campaign, which aims to give the Miracle gift of sight to people living in the world’s poorest places. She’s passionate about preventing avoidable blindness, having experienced the impact of vision problems on her own family, and after her life-changing journey to see CBM’s sight-saving work in Rwanda.

“It really is a scandal, utterly wrong, that people are living needlessly blind simply because they can’t afford eye treatment like cataract surgery. Last year, I had the huge privilege of visiting Rwanda in East Africa to see CBM’s work first-hand – and I witnessed the miraculous impact of sight-saving treatment.” .Read more from Diane (open in new tab).

Meet 6-year-old Adip from Nepal and witness his Miracle:

Thank you for transforming the lives of children like Adip – we couldn’t make Miracles like this happen without you!