Stories from the Field
Our time in the field gives us a unique perspective on the impact of sight on ordinary Rwandans. Every one of them has a story worth sharing.
Alysi Mumyakazi's Story
Alysi is a tailor and is pictured here working outside his home in the village of Nyirangogo. Once a week he walks 6 miles to Munyinya Market where he meets his loyal clients and new customers. They make their requests for dresses and suits, and outfits for special occasions such as weddings. Alysi enjoys his chosen career, which he started as an apprentice under the tutelage of his father when he was just 15.
With his near vision failing, Alysi has recently had trouble threading the needle for his sewing machine and has relied on relatives or the kindness of passing strangers to do this task for him. This has become a problem as each time he needs to change the thread he needs help before he can continue. This has slowed his work down because there isn't always someone available to thread a needle for him. It is no surprise that the reduction in Alysi's productivity has impacted on his weekly earnings. With a wife, 5 children and 8 grandchildren to support every franc counts.
Upon receiving his reading glasses, Alysi was overjoyed. “I can see clearly!'' he exclaimed. When we returned to see Alysi working in his village a few days later, he explained how his new reading glasses have “helped me to see through the needle which I wasn't able to do before”.
Godance Uwamurezi's Story
Godance and her baby daughter, Sharon, live in the village of Nyankokoma where she is a farmer, shopkeeper, student and full-time mother of 6. Having struggled all her life with blurred vision, Godance was quick to attend a free vision assessment provided by Vision for a Nation and the Government of Rwanda's Ministry of Health.
In this photo Godance, having just corrected her vision with adjustable glasses and looking into the distance exclaims "Wow! Beautiful! I really can see!". Her joy is apparent to all with her wide grin and infectious laugh. She continues "there's not one thing I can't see, even that small tree near the council office". Her baby daughter is oblivious to this remarkable event in her mother's life but she will reap the benefits...
A few days later Godance is at her home in Nyankokoma where she is sorting through her beans to remove wayward stones. She says her glasses have helped her with this quality control task and this should improve the price she receives for her produce.
Further to this, Godance explains how she can now read the blackboard while attending her vocational business course. As Godance improves her education so too will her children's prospects of education and employment improve.
Justin Furaha's Story
Justin Furaha attends Cyuru Apapegi Secondary School. He is almost 16 and will finish grade 9 by the end of 2009. Justin's best subjects at school are Science and Geography which he attends with his best friend Erick. Justin has had difficulty reading the blackboard for several years now and has found himself needing to sit closer and closer to the front of the room over time in order to take notes.
Three years ago Justin's teacher suggested he visit the local district hospital to have his eyes checked. About 6 months later as his eyesight deteriorated further Justin walked 7 miles to the village of Rukomo before catching a bus 25 miles to Byumba District Hospital. The vision assessment revealed Justin was considerably short-sighted.
He was given a prescription and told he needed to make a journey to Rwanda's capital, Kigali, to visit an optometrist where he would need to pay a minimum of 15,000 Rwandan Francs (approximately $27) for a pair of glasses. Justin's father earns an average of just 25,000 RWF ($45) a month to support Justin's mother, his grandparents and 5 siblings so the prospect of escorting Justin to Kigali, paying for the return journey, an optometrist's appointment as well as glasses was just not feasible.
When Justin's parents heard the community announcement that free vision assessments were being conducted by their local community health workers and that glasses were being dispensed simultaneously they instructed their son to arrive early on the first day of screening. Justin's vision was checked and within 20 minutes of being seen he had received a pair of glasses. What would have taken years of saving and at least one or 2 days journey to Kigali was solved in a matter of moments.
Justin is thrilled he can read the blackboard now but perhaps more importantly, Erick and his other school friends have already seen an improvement in his football skills!
Denys Kagimbana's Story
Denys Kagimbana and his family live in the village of Sabiro. Denys, a farmer, owns 3 goats and grows potatoes, tomatoes and bananas on his small plot of land. He borrows a neighbour's bicycle to take his produce to market. Occasionally he sells a goat which fetches a good price. Brochette (goat kebab) is a popular snack in Rwanda.
Denys had a vision assessment for the first time in his life through the Vision for a Nation Rwanda initiative. The assessment revealed he needed glasses for both distance and near vision. For Denys the world was a blur. Imagine his excitement when the world came into focus for the first time. "I wasn't able to see far and now I can" he exclaims with enthusiasm. Cycling his neighbour's bicycle to market was always somewhat hazardous but now Denys will be able to steer clear of the potholes and steep embankments of the dirt road preventing bruises to his fruit and himself.
Changing over to his reading glasses, Denys starts to read aloud from the family bible. Some of his children start giggling but Denys is proud to read to them. "I can read the small letters that I wasn't able to read before" he says.
His wife who is illiterate is nodding with approval. Until today Denys and his wife have relied on their two eldest children to read material for them. Denys will now be able to engage more in his children's education and help his wife. It looks like everyone has benefitted from Denys' new glasses - maybe even his goats!