The wearer of the shoe knows where it pinches most so it’s said. And no one understands that idiom better than Emmanuel Melly. Though he should be a productive member of the society, his ability to do so has been greatly compromised because as he is, cataract has held him captive to unproductive life.
The one organ that should help him find his way through doesn’t function well. He can barely see during the day because when the sun rays come into contact with his eyes, it’s another day to dance on the fire barefoot; a routine he has faithfully done as long as he can remember. He is 44 years old and to him, the cruelty of the world chose him as the sole recipient of its venom by draining to the last drop a cocktail of pain and misfortunes into his life. While men naturally thrive in being providers for their families and solution givers to their communities, these innate abilities have been dealt a blow by chronic asthma, cataract and poverty. We met him at Kapkitany location in Mosop constituency in Nandi county. The father of 8 approaches and begins to explain the horrendous experience he has been through. He breaks down in tears as he narrates how the challenge of seeing stopped him from completing school.
Though the family still looks up to him as the provider, deep down, he has always battled demons that manifested as feelings of worthlessness. From his face, you can see a man who’s esteem has been constantly ravaged even as his masculinity is eroded by the waves of misfortunes. Your peers look at you like a man who has nothing much to offer to this world yet deep within, you feel like your potential is being drowned by limitations that you can easily overcome if only a good Samaritan came to your rescue.
But the pain that Emmanuel Melly cannot bear, though he interacts with it daily, is that of witnessing the same pattern of events that crippled his life follow four of the eight children he has. These four, like his life’s script but with different players, seems to be walking in the same path of the rugged and unpredictable terrain of pain that Melly has been quite familiar with. The bitter brook from which he has been sipping for the last over 40 years seems to be the very same route his children will take if no one comes to their rescue. While he has made peace with his condition, his heart is daily crushed into a fine powder when he imagines that his children might also end up living unproductively just like him. The cost of one surgery is not much but because they still struggle to meet the most basic of needs, the Sh 20,000 which is required to perform one surgery is like a luxury to this family. He tells us how it is painful for him to watch and be helpless as the same time as history repeats itself right before his very eyes. But like a phoenix rising from the ashes, one of the sons has decided to go after treatment with the hope of becoming an ophthalmologist.
Not far away from the village where Emmanuel Melly lives, in Kaptikany location, we are received by a jovial and active grandmother who’s teeth seems to have decided to take an early vacation. She jokes about it and asks us before we took her photos if we will bring her artificial teeth when we come back. The land cruiser that took us there is owned by Sabatia eye hospital and its synonymous with free sight surgeries and medical camps that has restored sights of many children in the area. We are occasionally stopped by villagers who wanted their eyes checked up and it’s evident that this car has made many inroads in this place. She later identified herself as Faith Misik, a 65-year-old grandmother of among others, Clinton who received the gift of sight, courtesy of CBM (Christian Blind Mission Kenya).
In Kebulonik village, Kaptikany location, we are received in the homestead of Faith Misik by a household that has tasted first-hand fruits from the sacrificial sweat of well-wishers and good Samaritans. The expectation was high and the air was thick with hope. In this homestead, we met a family of 6 who have all faced challenges with their sights. The common enemy that has united the family through pain is a cataract. Growing up, the children had issues when walking. They would stumble on rocks and hurt their feet. The family felt hopeless because they did not know the cause of their agony. An awful rumor started going around that the family was cursed. That rumor scarred the mother. During the interview, she had to be pestered to come out and meet the guests. We are told that the stigma that this pain has caused her is incomprehensible. The questions that she has battled is why did God allow her to be the one to carry, deliver and raise children who had such extreme conditions? The questions no one has ever managed to answer. When she finally managed to come out, she told us how it’s been extremely painful as a mother to see her children’s dream being extinguished right before her eyes. The pain of being the subject of unfounded gossip as her children are ridiculed because they can’t see well.
But even amidst this gloomy story, we met Clinton, who is in class two and had cataract but he already went through surgery. He can see well now though he wears spectacles. Before the surgery, his grades had plummeted. He couldn’t perform well in school. But now with a brand new sight having defeated cataract, he has literally adjusted his vision to the sky. Mathematics is his favorite subject and he tells us that one day he will fly us as we do stories.
But you can be the good Samaritan who will change the narratives of Melly and many others who are threatened with preventable blindness because of Cataract. From 5th to 10th October, CBM (Christian Blind Mission) Kenya will carry out 250 surgeries across 5 hospitals to give the gift of sight to those who can’t afford it.
CBM is seeking to raise 5 M shillings to carry out these surgeries in the following 5 partner hospitals: PCEA Kikuyu eye unit, Tenwek Eye Hospital Unit, Kwale District Eye Centre, Light House for Christ Eye Centre and Sabatia Eye Hospital.
You can support these surgeries by spreading this message to reach as many people as possible and also by sending your donations, however, small they are to the following details:
Paybill Number 574743.
Cheques or cash can be sent to AC No 0108011197000, Standard Chartered Bank, Ukay center.
According to WHO, it is estimated that 80% of blindness is preventable and 51% of all blindness is due to cataract. A cataract is is a clouding of the lens of the eye leading to visual impairment and blindness. Unfortunately, many people in Kenya who have cataract cannot afford the surgery and end up living with it or going blind entirely.
“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.”
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All images by Peter Cacah