14 June 2005

You can help get equipment

• Collect old glasses. Gather your own, your parents', your grandparents', your friends', your teachers', your work colleagues', members of your church's – anybody's! – old glasses and/or cases and send them to The Raven Trust's headquarters. If you know the prescription, then write it on some paper and attach it to the glasses. It'll save a lot of time and work for the staff at Ekwendeni Hospital.

• Visit your local optometrist or hospital eye department. Ask if they have any old stock or equipment they would kindly donate. If your're not sure whether equipment is suitable or needed, e-mail me to check.

• Start a glasses collecting campaign. You could enlist the help of your local paper/radio. With the G8 summit about to start in Scotland, and the 'Make Poverty History' campaign, now is a good time.

• Start fundraising. Money to buy large pieces of equipment, or to pay for shipping. Make cheques out to The Raven Trust.

• Remember you really can make a difference. Containers are being sent out regularly. The next one is going on June 30th. Patients at Ekwendeni hospital could be benefitting from your donation by the end of July!

13 June 2005

What's needed

• A new building. This would also accommodate a new dental clinic. Provisional plans have been drawn up and these are being looked at. There would be two rooms for the eye clinic, one for examinations and possibly minor operations, the other for glasses dispensing. This second room would be sub divided to provide workshop space for glazing etc as well as storage.

• Equipment to go in it. Everything from blackout blinds or curtains, sinks and taps, through to slit lamps, ophthalmoscopes, retinoscopes and all other refraction and manufacturing equipment.

• Second hand glasses. Particularly single focus reading glasses in good condition. However all glasses would be useful because the frames can be reglazed with a new prescription.

• Old glasses cases and chains. Especially necessary for reading glasses.

• Cleaning cloths.

• Surplus stock/travellers' samples/last seasons' frames.

We want to improve on this a little!

The vision for an eye clinic at Ekwendeni

Access to sight testing for glasses is beyond the reach of tens of thousands of people in the North of Malawi. Dr Lungu, Ekwendeni Hospital's clinical director has a vision to provide a permanent eye clinic, with basic sight testing facilities, plus glasses dispensing and manufacture. He also plans to have surgical equipment in place so that when an overseas team such as 'Sight Savers' comes to visit, everything would be ready for them.

10 June 2005

Modesta Nvula – a happy lady!

Modesta Nvula - Mama Nvula - lives way out west by the Zambian border, four hours drive through the bush from Ekwendeni. She is a key worker in her church but has been unable to see to read books for the past five years, particularly her beloved Bible. Friends heard that I was visiting and brought her to see me and I was able to fix her up with a pair of reading glasses. She was over the moon and sat and read her Bible for the next four hours, non-stop!

Ekwendeni Hospital - April 2005

To date, the hospital has been unable to provide any permanent eye care services, beyond dealing with infections and identifying cataracts. My objective, in conjunction with the hospital manager, was to identify what kind of service could be developed and the kind of equipment and training that would be needed to maintain it.

While there, I had an opportunity – with medical assisstants Wesley Mahuka and Cullen Nyirongo – to do some basic sight testing for about 100 people, mostly hospital staff and other professional people in the town, who needed reading glasses. Of course, we were unable to provide specific prescriptions, so found the best matches from a box of second-hand glasses supplied by donors in Scotland and delivered by the Raven Trust, and from those I took with me.

It was amazing that such a basic service was beyond the means of most professionals, let alone the ordinary working people.

Staff gave me a tour of the hospital to see what other work it is involved in (see the Emmanuel healthcare web link for more details on the hospital). Nursing staff who run a monthly mother and baby outreach clinic invited me to go out with them. Children were weighed, had a health check and were vaccinated (see photos). They made me assistant pharmacist for the day and I gave out paracetamol, drugs for malaria, intestinal worms, conjunctivitis plus vitamins.

Another day out was spent with the HIV/Aids workers, visiting two income generation projects, plus a village orphan-feeding programme.