One village at a time

A senior woman, wearing eyeglasses, works on her Sotet, a traditional guard that's used to turn fresh milk into sour milk.
Written by Colin Zak Donate Today

When 62-year-old Lucia lost her left eye and then began losing vision in her remaining eye, she lost more than just her sight; she lost her art and source of income.

She also struggled to do her daily chores at home and on the farm.

After more than a decade in near-blindness, she received sight-restoring eye surgery and eyeglasses free of charge after being referred by an Operation Eyesight Community Health Volunteer (CHV) last year, during a door-to-door survey.

In addition to reminding us of the importance of taking charge of our eye health, Lucia taught us that an awkward hard-shelled fruit could be a work of art.

“I can now decorate my gourds with beads and make clothes,” she says. “This is something I abandoned 11 years ago.”

Lucia’s village of Lamaon in Kenya’s Elgeyo Marakwet County is one of 15 villages across the county that was declared avoidable blindness-free last year, bringing us one step closer to our goal of declaring 50 villages in the county free of cases of unidentified refractive errors, cataracts and other conditions.

Lamaon village is one of 15 villages across Kenya’s Elgeyo Marakwet County to be declared free of avoidable blindness in 2021.

By empowering volunteers to screen others in their community for vision problems, we are able to identify community members with vision problems and refer them to an eye unit or partner hospital for care.

CHVs also provide health education to communities regarding primary eye care and child and maternal health.

We conducted refresher training for 10 CHVs in Kenya in 2021, out of 82 volunteers that we work with. This community-based team reached 4,477 people in their communities with health education and eye health screening last year.

“It’s our Community Health Volunteer presence in communities that ensures these communities are free of avoidable blindness not just this year but in years to come,” explains Alice Mwangi, Country Director for Kenya.