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Idaho faith: Give African students gift of sight for Christmas; let them see what we see

·3 min read

Children who are about to be blind can have the perfect Christmas — the gift of sight — with the help of Idahoans, and I am writing to plead with you to help a child in need of eye care.

The alarming number of high school students in our two Caring Hearts high schools in Kenya in need of glasses has led me to reflect on the relationship between poverty and blindness. I grew up near where the schools are. One is less than 2 miles from my parents’ home. I don’t recall any of my schoolmates wearing glasses in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

However, I returned to Kenya, my native country, in 2010 for the first time in 24 years. I was devastated by the level of emptiness in young children’s lives who had lost their parents to AIDS/HIV complications or who simply lived in impoverished families. Not only were those children unable to join high school or university, but they also lacked nutritious meals and medical treatment. The situation has not improved in the years since.

A lump develops in my throat as I recall that one of our students had lost sight in one of his eyes and could have become blind if it were not for caring people’s intervention. He was diagnosed while still in elementary school with cataracts in both eyes. He needed less than $250 for treatment and glasses. His single mother didn’t have it. Her solution, like that of millions of poor people, was to let nature take its course.

Doing nothing more than hope is the reason there are more than 60 blind pupils in Kangundo Primary School (my elementary school). During my years at the school there were none. Whether the cause of blindness in so many children is lack of treatment or the side effects of malaria medicines or any other reasons, those children are largely from poor backgrounds.

As I am writing this, two girls, 11-year-old Regina and 8-year-old Irene, have recently been brought from other schools to Kangundo after teachers realized they could not read well because of poor eyesight. The school, because of the many blind students it enrolls, has a reliable relationship with a leading hospital with a reputed eye clinic. Both girls were diagnosed with cataracts and need about $800 apiece for operations and medication. That is beyond their parents’ financial capabilities.

A few years ago, a blind girl fell in a pit that the school was digging to build a latrine, just because she didn’t have a $12 walking cane. I shared her story with students in Nampa, and within days, they had raised enough money to purchase walking canes for all of the blind pupils in the school.

At our own schools, 17 students were prescribed eyeglasses in August. The glasses cost about $55. But parents of only three students have bought their daughters what their doctors recommended. The others have continued to struggle. We were able to intervene in the two worst cases to prevent the students from becoming blind.

As you celebrate the joy and blessings that we associate with Christmas holidays, know you can add to the blessings by gifting a vulnerable child with the gift of sight, or a walking cane or braille. Whatever you are moved to share, God is in the business of multiplying it to do wonders. The wonders of sight.

Please feel free to mail your donation to Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope (EIN-27-3127770), P.O Box 7152, Boise, ID 83707, or donate at caringheartsandhandsofhope.org. Your donation is tax deductible.

Vincent Muli Kituku is an author and speaker for business organizations, schools and Christian groups. He is the founder of Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope and Caring Hearts High School, a vulnerable girls’ boarding school in Kenya. Contact him at (208) 376-8724 or vincent@kituku.com . The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.

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