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Turn blindness into sight in the remote Highlands of Papua New Guinea…
Imagine being blind and isolated, unable to be with your loved ones, and having to fend for yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic. Eyesight is something we often take for granted. Yet there are many people in the remote Highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG) who are needlessly blind.
PNG has the greatest prevalence of blindness in the Pacific and one of the highest rates worldwide. Although the main causes of visual impairment and blindness are preventable, children and adults who are blind or have difficulty seeing, can rarely access the support they need. The extreme lack of access to eye health services is unnecessary. It increases the economic burden on families, and perpetuates a cycle of poverty and disability among people with visual impairment.
With a COVID-19 lockdown in PNG, many people with disabilities cannot access the services they need and others risk having their life-changing surgeries delayed or cancelled. But there is good news. Because most of cbm New Zealand’s projects are medical, they are essential services and can go ahead, helping with the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 and to offer care and treatment.
Having access to vital sight-saving surgery is an incredible blessing. Many people in PNG have never seen a doctor before. Approximately 86% of the population live in rural areas, however, most health services and specialists’ practices are located in larger towns. This results in many people being deeply affected by avoidable blindness. In fact, 1-in-15 men and 1-in-10 women in the remote Highlands struggle with blindness.
Blindness is often met with suspicion, as those who are blind are usually stigmatised and become victims of human rights abuse. Isolation is commonplace. But thankfully, with the support of generous people like you there is hope…
A recent study found that 5.6% of the population in Papua New Guinea aged 50 years and over experience visual impairment from un-operated cataract or blurred vision. Equipment and infrastructure for eye health services are limited and many people remain untreated or receive treatment late. Very few health personnel in Papua New Guinea are qualified to provide assessment and treatment of eye conditions. There are only 14 national ophthalmologists practicing in Papua New Guinea, far below the 80 required to attain the recommended ratio for the population of almost 9 million people. Around 40% of the population are aged 0-15 years, however there are no national ophthalmologists with paediatric specialisation to meet their needs. In general there is a lack of awareness that intervention to address visual impairment is possible. Because of these barriers, children and adults who are blind or have visual impairment can experience social challenges that put them at risk of abuse and neglect.
WHAT YOUR GENEROUS SUPPORT CAN HELP FUND
Give the miracle of sight by helping to fund sight-saving surgeries in rural communities.
Restore sight by helping to fund spectacles and low vision devices.
Help fund eye-care clinics in marginalised communities.
Help fund the training of local ophthalmologists.
Prevent avoidable blindness with eye care screening and awareness-raising in remote communities.
Support representative organisations of persons with visual impairment to promote their rights and social inclusion.
And right now the New Zealand Government through its Aid Programme has pledged to multiple any gift you give to Papua New Guinea x5!
One-off, Every Week, Every 2 Weeks, Every 4 Weeks, Every Month, Quarterly, Annually
In seeing her daughter’s face for the first time in years. Please support cataract surgeries in Papua New Guinea so more people like Barbra can receive the miracle of sight!
“Weeping may be for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” – Psalm 30:5
Yes, joy came in the morning for Barbra, as her surgical eye patch came off, and she saw her daughter’s face for the first time in so many years. Before the joy though, poor Barbra had so much to weep about. I think you may be shocked to see how hard life has been for a blind widow trying to survive in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea.
Normally a sight-saving operation like Barbra’s costs $35, but today the New Zealand Government will multiply your cataract gift times five. That means for every $35 surgery you fund, five people will receive sight-saving surgery!
What a remarkable opportunity this is to give sight to our near neighbours, living with avoidable blindness and poverty, in PNG.
Many years ago, as a happily married mum, Barbra was harvesting berries from her small patch of coffee bushes.
Unfortunately, a needle-sharp branch stabbed her right in the eye, causing irreversible damage. Barbra’s long night of weeping had begun.
Living in New Zealand, if you hurt your eye as badly as Barbra, you would be fortunate to be able to rush to a well-equipped emergency room.
Barbra could not do that. She had never even heard there are such things as hospitals and doctors!
All she could do was suffer in pain, pouring river water over her injured eye. With no medical treatment, she just had to go back to work! The damage to her injured eye meant that it would be blind forever.
Trying to make the best of this difficult situation, Barbra bravely thought “one good eye is enough” but then, sadly, the sight in her good eye began to fail.
In a double blow, a cloudy cataract was starting to grow in Barbra’s remaining eye.
As if Barbra’s sight fading into total blindness wasn’t devastating enough, more unexpected darkness was about to come upon her life in tragic ways.
Firstly, her devoted husband died, leaving her grief stricken and alone. How could Barbra possibly harvest and sell her crop of coffee and peanuts?
Then strangers came to the valley – violently burning Barbra’s home. Sightless, she could not defend herself or her little farm.
Losing her sight, losing her husband, losing her income, losing her home - devastating.
Fortunately, Barbra was able to move in with other family members, including her loving daughter – but her blindness placed a strain on the family, making their struggle with hunger and poverty even harder.
Being so dependent on others, Barbra became isolated at home. She felt humiliated and guilty for the burden she unwillingly placed on the family – having to be led fifty metres to the pit toilet and needing help to wash herself in the river. She was unable to attend her church and this added to her misery and isolation.
My heart breaks to see a widow, made in God’s image, living like this. All for the lack of a $35 eye operation!
But because of generous people like you, a cbm community outreach worker found Barbra! Their loving kindness brought hope to her when no one else in her family or community was able.
That day Barbra learned that a 12-minute operation could replace the cloudy cataract in her eye with a clear new lens – restoring her vision!
She was amazed. It sounded miraculous… but also very, very expensive. How could she ever afford this?
She need not have worried. She was told that her operation and expenses were going to be paid in full!
Barbra was overwhelmed to think that somebody she did not know, living in another country, would pay for her sight to be restored.
She was so excited and full of hope, but she had a long journey ahead.
Reaching the cbm outreach clinic was not easy. For 15 kilometres, Barbra’s daughter led her by the hand, wading through large rivers, and occasionally slipping and falling on the steep, muddy track. After many hours, at last they reached the bus stop, for a long bumpy ride along a very dusty road.
Exhausted but still excited, Barbra and her daughter received a warm welcome from cbm clinic staff, a nice meal and a bed for the night.
The next day, Barbra met the first doctor she had ever seen in her life – a cbm ophthalmologist. Nervous at first, she was amazed how friendly and caring he was.
That afternoon, fully awake with a local anaesthetic, Barbra received life-changing cataract surgery. The cbm ophthalmologist removed her blinding cataract, replacing it with a new lens and then protecting her rapidly healing eye with a comfortable patch.
Waiting eagerly through the night, Barbra hardly dared to hope. There had been so many nights of weeping. Would joy come to her in the morning?
After so much tragedy, Barbra did not have to worry anymore. From the moment her bandage was removed, relief, then joy, then gratitude, flooded her heart.
Barbra could see again! Not dimly or through a haze. She could see clearly!
The first thing she saw was her daughter. She had not seen her beloved face in so many years.
A huge smile swept over Barbra’s face, and she clapped her hands with joy.
“As soon as the bandage was removed, I knew the operation was a success,” she said. “All the things I was going to do started flying through my head!”
Growing coffee! Tending her garden! Feeding her pigs! Going to church! Hugging her family! Earning an income! Barbra could hardly contain her joy! She honestly couldn’t believe her vision could ever be restored. She had lost all hope and thought it was impossible to ever see again.
But thanks to people like you, no-one needed to lead Barbra back home that day. Thanks to people like you, she now has her life back. She left the outreach clinic with so much to look forward to – and is so grateful to God, that He would do such a wonderful thing through an unknown friend like you.
Barbra continues to give thanks to God for her sight – and prays for the miracle of sight to be gifted to others like her – people who have lost their independence, their livelihood, and their hope, all because they have lost their sight.
Please will you send a generous gift today to give the miracle of sight to others like Barbra – and also to continue training the cbm ophthalmologist and other staff at the cbm outreach clinic. They work so hard in the Highlands to restore the sight of precious people like Barbra.
Please send your gift today, or as soon as possible, while the Government’s incredible offer will multiply your gift X5.
Send $35 for the surgery of one person like Barbra… and five people will be set free from blindness.
Your gift of $70 will be multiplied to $350! That is sight-saving surgery for ten people!
Do you want to give sight to 25 people today? $175, plus the X5, will do that.
That is a lot, I know – but do you realise how much it would cost in New Zealand to set 25 people free from cataracts? More than $100,000! You can do it for $175.
Any cataract surgery gift you send is so gratefully appreciated – especially by people like Barbra, the hard working team in PNG, and everyone at cbm. Please do send it today.
Blindness is causing so much weeping in Papua New Guinea. Please help turn that weeping into joy, for as many people in PNG as you can.
Thank you for your love and support, for blind widows like Barbra.
The New Zealand Government will multiply your gift for cataract surgery like Barbra’s – five times! That means for every $35 operation you give, five people will have their sight restored! Our hard-working neighbours like Barbra need their sight for their very survival. Please send your gift today – you will turn much weeping into great joy.