Nothing had prepared me for seeing CBM’s sight-saving work with my own eyes. Travelling around Zimbabwe in November, I met people who had accessed free cataract surgery through our Light Up Lives project – funded by fantastic CBM supporters and the UK government through their UK Aid Match scheme. It was wonderful hearing testimonies of answered prayers, and the bible passages which had encouraged people during their long wait to access treatment.
Dressmaker Aquila had given away her sewing machine because her sight had become so bad. Her twin sister Priscilla stayed home to take care of her, but cataract surgery was unaffordable. Reflecting on her surgery afterwards, 59-year-old Aquila said, “I don’t know how to thank you; you don’t know what this means.” Her favourite bible passage is Proverbs 31 which speaks of an entrepreneurial, hard-working woman. Inspired by the passage, and now able to work again, Aquila is busy making clothes for children living in poverty in her community.
We met 21-year-old Brian on the day of his surgery. An accident when he was 13 had left him blinded by a traumatic cataract. His brother takes care of him, but the cost of surgery was out of reach. For eight years nobody wanted to be his friend, and he couldn’t get a job because people didn’t like the look of his eye. Brian told me, “People would be like, ‘Hey, look what you are looking like’, and the confidence was not even there. You feel like, ‘Maybe I am different from other people because of that cataract,’ so it was better to play alone and do my own things. It was very terrible.” But he didn’t lose hope. He said, “I am in the bible so much. I like the story of Moses when he took the Israelites out of Egypt. That was really my story concerning my cataract – I believed that one day God would lead me into freedom. As of now I am free. It is the new beginning of my life. I know God has still more for me.”
Patricia, 15, is studying hard at school and wants to be a doctor when she grows up. Last year she developed a cataract, had to leave her school, and stayed home putting urine drops into her eye – a common traditional remedy. She confided that she had been fearful of surgery: “Some people were saying if you get operated you turn blind for the rest of your life. So I was scared.” Bravely, she decided to go ahead, and trusted in God’s promises as she waited for her operation. “My favourite part of the bible is Proverbs 3 – ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding: in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.’” Patricia’s surgery was successful – she told us, “Everything is now back to normal. The pains are all gone. I can sleep. School is great. I am enjoying it. But sometimes it is challenging – especially chemistry.”
Zimbabwe has one of the highest rates of blindness in the world, with a desperate shortage of trained eye health workers and ill-equipped hospitals. Light Up Lives is helping to change this. We are now halfway through, and together with our partner Help Age we have delivered nearly a thousand cataract surgeries, provided essential medical equipment, and trained more than a thousand eye health workers. People can see their children again, go back to work, live independently and dream afresh of a better future. I am so grateful to have seen the impact of Light Up Lives with my own eyes, and I can’t wait to see what the second half of this project will bring.
In 2021, CBM supporters donated £1.2 million, with every eligible pound then matched by the UK government. Across three years, Light up Lives is enabling over 44,000 people with eye health problems to access good quality treatment and support.
Support CBM’s sightsaving work here www.cbmuk.org.uk/donate