When I arrive in Chogoria, Kenya, I receive a surge of energy that allows me to work 9.5 to 10 hours each day. Chogoria is a small rural village in Central Kenya close to the base of Mt. Kenya. After 12 years of working here, I have wonderful friends on the Village HopeCore International (VHI) staff and in the village. I live in the Doctors’ Compound, which is for volunteers and medical staff. I live in a very small apartment. My kitchen has a two-burner hot plate hooked up to a propane tank, a microwave, and a small refrigerator. My bathroom is very basic. Each room has a small light. The electricity is frequently off, and then I have a cold shower. The compound is surrounded by two boarding schools for girls. I am awakened each morning by the two schools singing, the Presbyterian School (K-8) and the National Girls’ High School. They also sing each evening. It’s a nice way to begin and end my day.
Each morning, I begin my day at the VHI office, working on my computer and distributing reading glasses to the community. At 9:30 a.m., the medical teams load the three Land Cruisers, and two medical teams leave in each vehicle to go to rural schools and villages. I travel with a team to give out de-worming pills, do vision screenings, and distribute reading glasses to adults. The medical teams treat students, babies, toddlers, and adults.
The rural schools are very basic. Some do not have electricity. Each school has a boys’ outhouse, a girls’ outhouse, and a staff outhouse. The better schools have a lunch program, and food is cooked on a wood stove. When there is no lunch program, the students bring their own food. Some students do not have lunch as their families have no food to send. Each school has safe drinking water and hand washing stations provided by VHI. Students with no food fill their stomachs with water to stave off hunger pains. The student attends school from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and then stays to clean the classrooms. Government schools are not free. Students pay tuition, buy uniforms and school supplies and pay for lunches. The students are friendly and very curious about the white woman. Many of the very young students have not seen a white person. A young boy started rubbing my arm as he thought the white paint would rub off.
The Vision Program is totally free to children. Children who fail the screening are referred to our ophthalmologist, Dr. Nguuri, for further diagnosis, and prescription eyeglasses are given to the child. Children with serious eye problems are referred to Kikuyu Eye Institute in Nairobi for treatment and/or surgery. Both children and adults are treated and given eye drops for eye infections and allergies free of children. Our medical teams screen for cataracts and refer adults to a government hospital for free cataract surgery. An Australian eye institute is funding cataract surgery for adults in Kenya.
The highlight of my trip was 4-month-old baby Abagail. Abagail was brought by her mother to a VHI baby clinic. One of our nurses realized that Abagail had a vision problem. She was immediately scheduled for an appointment with the ophthalmologist. Abagail was diagnosed with glaucoma and a serious eye problem that needed surgery immediately to save her vision. Her mother, Abagail, and I left on a van to Nairobi at 3 a.m. We arrived five hours later at Kikuyu Eye Institute and had a consultation with a pediatric ophthalmologist surgeon who confirmed the diagnosis. Abagail was scheduled for surgery, and her vision was saved. I am very grateful to the wonderful donors who paid for this surgery.
When I return each time, I thank God that I live in the U.S. and on Lido Isle.
Vision Fund donations can be submitted at villagehopecore.org. Indicate the donation is for the Vision Fund in the comments. Alternately, checks made out to Village HopeCore International can be mailed to Kathy Sangster, 403 Via Lido Soud, Newport Beach, CA 92663. (The charity is a CA Registered Charity, and your donation is tax-deductible.)
To donate reading glasses, contact Kathy Sangster at firstname.lastname@example.org or 949-290-0023.