Raising Our Gaze - Part 2
I’ve lived in England most of my life and two of its comforting consistencies are the rising and the setting of the sun. Although we employ artificial light to go about our business at the times of our choosing, nature doesn’t just hurl each new day at us. Instead, each one is presented to us bit by bit, specific situations and circumstances are revealed as more and more light pours in. The same is true at the end of the day, the sun departs slowly, giving plenty of notice that night is coming. In July, close to the equator, it is very different, sunlight comes and goes quickly, like a light being switched on and off.
On, or off. That’s how we were during our trip. Every waking moment was filled with an activity to undertake, or an opportunity to grasp hold of – and they were coming thick and fast. Although this was only my second SeeKenya trip, I’d learned from my more experienced colleagues to expect the unexpected. Whatever plans we made would probably change, and we would likely encounter some unimagined blessings during our visit.
The first event on our (fairly sparse at this point) itinerary was a meeting with a member of the Lions organisation, with the promise of a visit to a hospital that could help us in our life-giving eye care work. So, when we landed, I was filled with the eager anticipation of a child on Christmas morning looking at the gifts under the tree, dreaming of what might be inside. But, only a few hours later, my dreams were fading and my faith challenged as we sat in a roadside café, drinking ginger tea, our transport broken down by the side of the road… As time ticked by and the tea turned to Tangawizi (delicious ginger beer) and lunch, we were becoming a little concerned that we were going to miss out on this rare opportunity to meet a potential partner.
Our vision to provide quality, accessible eye care for the Kenyan people is greater than the sum of our parts. We know that our pop-up clinics, whilst providing a life-transforming service for thousands of people, are limited and only scratch the surface of what this country needs. We’re a tiny team, punching well above our weight to give people better sight (and thus more life opportunities) but we hope for more. The next step in our plan is a permanent clinic, to give people constant provision of quality eye care, but our dream is to see quality eye care provided by Kenyan people, for Kenyan people – across the whole of Kenya.
That’s why meetings with potential partners are SO important. SeeKenya’s core strength lies in our foundational partnership with Edfri International. Kenya is their home, their culture and it is their vision for making life-changing eye care accessible for Kenyans, combined with their local knowledge and networks that is vital for SeeKenya’s work to happen. But we are limited by many factors, one being a dependable place to refer people with more complex eye care needs, such as cataract treatment. We have to refer patients for this specialist medical care and there are few options; there simply aren’t many places where eye surgery takes place, fewer where we are satisfied with the quality, and they are usually far, far away from Meru, where we run our clinics. The Lions’ eye hospital in Nairobi (one of the best-quality eye care facilities in Africa) is one such place – but it is a day’s travel from Meru, a barrier that prevents many of our patients from being able to have their surgery, even when they can afford it.
Our meeting was due to be in Nanyuki (a town on the Equator), still a two-hour journey from Meru by car but clearly more accessible. Making treatment more accessible for our patients will be life-changing, enabling them to undergo surgery that could restore their sight and give them a fresh lease of life. As time went on, despite the reassurance from our hosts, we were beginning to realise that we may have to forgo our appointment in order to reach our accommodation before nightfall (when it can be unsafe to travel). Then, with the pace of a Kenyan sunrise, we were off again – back on the road and heading to a… golf club?
I increasingly hold on to this tenet; ‘Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.’ (Hebrews 11:1 CSB). And the more I do, the more peace I have. We have far less control of the circumstances of our lives than we would love to believe we do, and this seems more real to me in Kenya, when I am utterly dependent on God and our hosts for everything I am involved in. So, when we arrived in Nanyuki, at a gated country club, I simply took a breath, said a prayer and followed our drivers. As we were led into a building, we were warmly greeted by a group of very smartly-dressed people sitting round a meeting table. We were welcomed as honoured guests by a regional meeting of Lions’ leaders and invited to sit with them and eat! This ‘meet and eat’ was hosted by the local Lions representative (who is a doctor), who then proceeded to give us a tour of a local hospital - a potential facility to provide eye care surgery. It was only Day One and God was building up our hopes that a future for quality, accessible eye care in Kenya could, one day, become reality...
Written by Andy Heald - SeeKenya Trustee