Alice Mwangi is our country manager in Kenya, and she’s worked with Operation Eyesight for the last eight years.
We’re always excited for the chance to talk to our international team members because they have incredible experiences to share from their time in the field – and Alice had quite the story to tell!
Alice has seen how the work we do transforms the communities we help in Kenya. She told us that one reason Operation Eyesight is well-respected in the eye health sector by our partners and the governments we work with is because of our integrity.
“Our partners value us because they know that Operation Eyesight follows through,” she says. “Our partners trust us to do what we say we’re going to do, and that’s how we work together effectively.”
We wanted to know what Alice enjoyed most about her work on the ground, and this is what she told us:
“What I enjoy is being allowed to think creatively within the Hospital-Based Community Eye Health Program’s framework. We’re encouraged to adapt the model to suit the community being served, based on their culture and infrastructure.
“Households appreciate being visited by community health workers. They can’t believe that nurses are coming to their doorstep to check on them and refer them for treatment.”
Alice’s passion for her work comes from her own experiences, seeing our work in person. She has witnessed how people’s lives completely changed after receiving sight-restoring treatment.
“One thing that really inspires me is seeing how many people’s lives are restored when sight is restored. Our team meets people who feel like they’ve been condemned to die because they’ve gone blind – they can’t work, they can’t participate in their communities and they feel hopeless. In so many cases they’re extremely isolated, and they don’t know where to go to seek help.
“So, when a community health worker comes to their door and tells them they can get their sight back, their faces light up with joy and hope. When they receive sight-restoring treatment, they’re reborn, and they have hope again. They can go back to working and participating in their community. It’s incredible to be a part of that.”
Alice told us that because so many of the communities we serve are so far away from the resources they need, patients need transport to and from our partner hospital or nearest vision centre. Sometimes the partner hospital will provide transport, but our staff have field vehicles specifically for the transportation of staff and patients.
In some cases, a village is too remote, and doesn’t have the necessary infrastructure to build a local vision centre. In those cases, it’s easier to set up an eye camp in a village and bring the ophthalmic staff to them. Community health workers go door-to-door, telling people about the eye camp and referring people who need a diagnosis.
It’s difficult to reach communities that are so far away and hard to access, but Alice is fueled by her passion and dedication to reach absolutely everyone with the quality eye care they need.
“One story that has stayed with me is about an older man who had gone completely blind. He lived in West Pokot, in a hilly region that’s incredibly remote. He had heard about Operation Eyesight, and his daughter walked with him to Lomut Health Center to seek treatment. The health center is a satellite facility for the Kapenguria Eye Unit. He told me he had walked 12 hours! I could hardly believe it. He had heard about Operation Eyesight and the work we do, and his desire to see again was enough to carry him through the long hours of walking to seek treatment.
“When he reached the health centre, he learned that he had been suffering from cataracts. Soon after, he received sight-restoring cataract surgery, and he was so excited! He couldn’t believe he had his sight back.
“His treatment was completely paid for thanks to the support of our donors, and an Operation Eyesight shuttle bus was arranged to take him and his daughter home. The shuttle drove as far as possible before paying a local motorbike taxi to take them the rest of the way. In remote communities like his, there are no roads for traveling easily by car, and the most effective mode of transport is by motorbike. That’s how far away this man lived! Unfortunately, his circumstances aren’t unique. Many of the communities we serve are similarly remote and difficult to access. Even so, our team works hard to reach these communities to bring them quality eye care.
“I just remember how this man’s face lit up when the bandages were removed after his surgery! His smile stretched across his face, and he could SEE again. His many hours of walking were not in vain. With his sight restored, his independence and his hope were as well. It’s always inspiring to meet people like this man and see how their lives are transformed after eye surgery.”
We’re so proud to have Alice in the Operation Eyesight family!
And it’s people like YOU who make her work possible. Together we’re transforming entire communities through the gift of sight – For All The World To See!