The Miracle Gift of Sight – a life transformed!

27 August, 2015 - Steph Gaut

Part 2 of Lucy’s Miracles Day Nepal trip.

 

Write a blog, they said.

Sure, I replied. That’s easy, I thought. I love writing.

But… now words fail me.

I’m literally speechless. Which for a radio host, is a rare thing.

I’m struggling to find the right words to explain what I am witnessing here in Nepal. I’ll give it a shot, but it’s almost impossible to put pen to paper when it comes to the whirlwind of emotions I’m feeling.

 

I’ve witnessed a miracle. Infact I’ve witnessed quite a few since I’ve been here. Infact, this whole hospital is nothing short of a miracle. Hundreds of people begin to queue and start the process of receiving their very own miracle. It’s a long day, but everyone is quiet and patient. They are calm. You can tell many are scared, and it’s probably the first time many of these have stepped inside a hospital, but it’s their last hope. They want to see again.  They NEED to see again. Being blind in a third world country is … well, it’s unthinkable. They are some of the most forgotten and marginalized people on the planet.

Many have come from all across Nepal and northern India. A man I spoke to travelled 400kms, hoping someone here could help him see again. Hoping.

Another father I spoke to cradled his ten month old daughter in his lap. Her name was Charisma. Her eye started turning white a month ago. She became blind very quickly. You can tell she is his pride and joy. He travelled 26 hours with her. He told me he would have travelled as far as he had to, to get help. He was scared. His wife was scared. Trusting your little baby to strangers, having her whisked away into an operating theatre, placed under anesthetic, watching her fall asleep under the bright lights of a surgeons knife, I understood their fear. That is universal. These were simple villagers who didn’t understand the process. All they knew was that if they came to this place, then maybe, just maybe their baby would be able to see again.

I have a daughter who is about 8 weeks older than their baby. My little girl loves staring up at me and grabbing my face. She loves watching birds in the garden. She chases after our dog squealing with glee. When I pull her favourite snack from the cupboard and she sees in it my hands, she shouts and claps. She can see. I think about this little girl lying in the bed in front of me. She can’t see anything. She can’t see her mummy or daddy. She can’t see a sunset. She can’t squeal when a duck runs infront of her, or clap when a baby goat skips past. She’s trapped in darkness. If she remained blind, her life would be very dark indeed. Housebound, and unable to help. Unable to earn money. Unable to be married.

And the crazy thing is, a 12 minute operation that costs $32 can fix her almost instantly. I would pay $32 for my daughter to see. I would pay $32,000 for my daughter to see. In fact, I would pay whatever it took. These people have nothing. All they have is hope.  Hope that if they travel 26 hours, that someone here will help them. Hope that their little daughter will see again. Hope that someone, somewhere in the world has said yes, I care about your daughter. I care about her future. I care enough to give $32 so she can see again.

$32? A movie ticket and popcorn to us. A meal out. A new top. A good book. A few cups of coffee. Things we take for granted. Yet, $32 to these people is equivalent to giving them the world. Giving them their lives back. Giving them a future. Giving them hope.

I stand in the operating theatre and watch the operation. It’s so quick. The surgeons move quickly. There are 8 beds in the theatre I am in. It’s like a well oiled machine. As quickly as they move in, they move out. It’s calm. It’s quiet.

I am overwhelmed. It’s hot. I am emotional. I am watching these people’s lives be changed in the blink of an eye. I become lightheaded and I almost faint. I walk outside, sit down and place my head in my hands. I feel nauseous. I’m not sure if it’s the operation  that’s making me feel sick, or that fact that my western life is so comfortable, and so unaffected by these poor people on the other side of the planet, that it hits me hard. I feel guilty. For wasting money. For the times I have frittered money away. I feel angry that in this day and age, we are still so divided across the world. The haves and the have nots. I start to understand, really understand, why Jesus spoke mostly about loving the poor. Why He got it. Why He wants US to get it. And do something.  Sometimes I am saddened that Christians seem to be known for the things they are against, as opposed the things they are for. This is something we should be for. CBM is for it. Seeing the work of CBM here is like watching the hands and feet of Jesus. They are amazing.

I make myself go back inside the operating theatre. I stare at the people on the tables, making myself memorise their faces. So I don’t forget. So I always remember the miracles taking place here on the other side of the world. So I remember how blessed I am. And how I should do everything in my power to help these people.

Little Charisma, the tenth month old, had a successful operation. I saw her afterwards but she was still knocked out. Lying in her grandmothers arms. This tiny child the same age as my daughter but half the size. They were waiting for her to wake up. They looked worried. I wanted to throw my arms around them all and tell them it would be ok, but it’s not appropriate. I get to go see her again in a few hours. It’s been a day since her operation and her patch will come off. I can’t wait to see the joy on her face when she realizes she can see.

All it took was 12 minutes, $32 and she will be able to see.

She will be able to see her mummy. Her daddy. The Moon. The stars. A sunrise and a sunset. Her whole life is ahead of her now.

And all because someone, a million miles away, sitting in their comfortable house, somewhere in suburban Australia…. decided to make a miracle happen. They gave a small amount. It didn’t even hurt them. They didn’t even notice the money gone. But it changed someone’s whole life forever.

You won’t get to meet Charisma. You won’t get to see her beautiful baby smile. You won’t see the relief on the face of her parents. You won’t hear them say thankyou or see their tears.

But I saw it. So on behalf of Charisma, and her parents… thank you.

Thank you thank you thank you.

 

You have performed a miracle.

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Miracles Day 2015 – behind the scenes

24 August, 2015 - Steph Gaut

Lucy Holmes is a breakfast radio announcer with Melbourne’s 89.9 Light FM. Lucy is joining several other announcers from around the country and travelling to Nepal to get first-hand experience of what life is like for some of the world’s poorest people living with cataract blindness. In her first blog of the series, Lucy gets geared up ffor the highs and lows of exploring a developing country ahead of Miracles Day on Thursday 27 August:

 

So I’m finally en route to Nepal.

Nepal. A land I don’t know too much about. Apart from the recent devastating earthquakes, what else do I know? Sherpas? Yaks? Mount Everest?

I don’t know much but I do know that it’s a small landlocked country with the population of Australia crammed into the space the size of Victoria. That’s probably about it. And the fact that it’s one of the world’s poorest countries.

I have a lot to learn. Obviously.

And I’m excited and scared about that. I’ve done a lot of travel in my life, but never to a country so poor. And one with so many people in need… Or one that is still recovering from a horrific natural disaster.

Lucy is travelling with CBM to Nepal to witness life-changing cataract surgery.

Lucy is travelling with CBM to Nepal to witness life-changing cataract surgery.

 

I did some more reading and found out that about 40% of Nepalese live in poverty. Perhaps more now after the devastating earthquakes in April this year. Nearly 9,000 dead. Staggering. The country was left in ruins. And experts have said it will take years to rebuild Nepal’s fragile economy.

Apparently foreign aid is vital to the economy. For people to just survive. I’m excited that I get to see what foreign aid is doing firsthand in Nepal, through the work of CBM. I’ve donated in the past, and I’ve experienced that moment of feeling pleased I’ve been able to help in a tiny way, but I know this trip will be life changing. I know that I won’t return the same person that arrived, joking about Yaks.

In all honesty, I still am blown away that in this day and age of consumerism and greed, there are still people willing to give their money to save and bless people a million miles away. People they will never meet. I am excited that I will be able to see the work that is happening and report back to the listeners and tell them how their generosity is changing lives. What an honour.

I am excited to see lives changed this week… Stay tuned. We can make Miracles happen together.

Lucy x

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MDGs make way for disability-inclusive SDGs

23 July, 2015 - CBM Australia

As the Millennium Development Goals come to an end this year, a new report card has highlighted the success of the goals in alleviating poverty and improving the lives of millions of the world’s poorest people – including those living with disability.

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon wrote in his fore word of the report card, “the global mobilisation behind the Millennium Development Goals has produced the most successful anti-poverty movement in history”.

“The MDGs helped to lift more than one billion people out of extreme poverty, to make inroads against hunger, to enable more girls to attend school than ever before and to protect our planet”.

The goals included aims to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education and reducing child mortality. As an example, the MDGs helped reduce the number of people living in extreme poverty by more than half, falling from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015.

Disappointingly, the MDGs did not include disability-inclusive development and this has caused disparities. This has now been recognised in the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and more targeted efforts will make sure people with disabilities are not forgotten.The (SDGs) are set to be confirmed in September, and will build on the achievements and shortfalls of the MDGs.

Unlike the MDGs, the proposed SDGs will include disability in many targets; this is an enormous step towards achieving disability-inclusive development globally and is something that everyone at CBM is thrilled to see.

The inspirational goals set out by the SDGs can only be achieved if all global leaders work together.

At a time when Australia’s foreign aid budget has been cut to its lowest level since aid funding began, it is more important than ever for Australia’s government to commit to doing its part to make the SDGs a reality.

This is why we all need to stand up and fight for Australian Aid. It plays an essential role in ensuring the SDGs are met – creating a just and equal world for all.

 

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Farewell John Jeffries

3 July, 2015 - David Lewis

David Lewis is CBM’s Strategic Programs Director. In this blog, he reflects warmly on the contributions of CBM’s outgoing National Director John Jeffries, and shares personal insights into the way John has guided CBM in Australia to the place it holds today as a leading disability development organisation.

 

CBM Chair Bill Austin (R) and John at his Medal of the Order of Australia presentation.

CBM Chair Bill Austin (R) and John at his Medal of the Order of Australia presentation.

At the end of an era, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the important of John’s work and leadership at CBM.

John’s contribution to the international aid and development sector, both here is Australia and globally for the past three decades is outstanding. The huge number of the world’s poorest people whose quality of life has improved through John’s work is impossible to estimate and is a testament to his passion for helping those who need it most.

Establishing CBM Australia

From 1982, John worked in a team to establish CBM Australia as a trusted and valued organisation. The large and loyal group of supporters CBM has today is a great credit to John’s hard work during the early years, and his vision for what CBM could become. The way CBM’s supporters open their hearts to our life-changing work is in large part thanks to John’s open, friendly and welcoming nature, his faithfulness and his gifted story-telling.

John’s list of achievements at CBM is long, but a few highlights from the past 33 years of service include:

  • Receiving a Medal in the Order of Australia, in January 2014 for his contribution to the aid and development sector;
  • Helping to establish CBM Australia’s reputation and partnership with the Australian Government Aid Program;
  • Helping to establish the Vision2020 Australia alliance to improve eye health internationally, as well as in Australian indigenous groups and the general population;
  • Helping to establish the Australian Disability and Development Consortium, which led to the Australian Government developing a strategy for disability inclusion in the whole aid program;
  • Working to build CBM Australia’s reputation in the aid and development sector through the Australian Council For International Development (ACFID).

John’s work at CBM and in his local community, and his life with his family and friends is founded on a solid faith, and is an outstanding example to us all.

We all join today in saying a fond farewell and thank you to John for his amazing vision, dedication and encouragement over all these years. We wish John, his wife Alison and their family joy and peace in the coming years as they embark on the next steps in their journey.

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Letters from Tanzania – International Day to End Obstetric Fistula

23 May, 2015 - Steph Gaut

Today is International Day to End Obstetric Fistula. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that around 2 million girls and women live with untreated obstetric fistula- a hole in the bladder or rectum that causes uncontrollable incontinence –  throughout Aisa and sub-Saharan Africa, but fistula is entirely preventable.

Emelda Lwena is the Head of Nursing Services at CBM’s partner hospital in Tanzania, CCBRT. In this open letter to our supporters, Emelda shares her experiences of working to restore life and joy to women who often live in shame and are rejected by their communities because of fistula.

Emelda Lwena, centre, works with Tanzanian women living with fistula.

Emelda Lwena, centre, brings care and support to Tanzanian women living with fistula.

I have always wanted to help people. It was my dream as a kid. Now, as a nurse my dream has come true. By caring for women with fistula, we really make a difference. They come in totally confused and full of despair, but when they walk out they walk out happy – and that brings me happiness.

Fistula affects a lot of women here in Tanzania. The major issue is that most health facilities are too far from the women who need them. Ignorance is another barrier. Many people are not well informed about safe delivery, pregnancy complications and labour risks. Some tribes believe fistula is a curse so they hide or isolate these women from the rest of the community. They’ll send her to a witch doctor rather than take her to hospital.

In my opinion it is psychological torture to these women. The husbands run away and they become dependent on other family members for support. Some of them hide for years because the services that could help are very far away, or because they don’t know where to go or don’t have the funds for treatment or for transport to a service.
At our hospital, we break all the barriers that hinder women from getting help. If their problem is transport we provide transport. If it is costs for the hospital we help with that. The operations we do are 95% successful.

CCBRT also has mobile teams that go to remote areas educating communities. I know of a woman who was humiliated and isolated because of fistula. A CCBRT team happened to be in her community when there was a big gathering. We used the opportunity to give the group some health information. They realised the woman was not cursed – she just had a medical condition that could be healed. Seven years after getting her fistula she was taken to the hospital for treatment.

What these women go through really touches my heart. If you are giving a donation to CBM to help, I would like to shake your hand and say thank you very much.

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