My Journey Home
Discarded and unused, no longer of benefit and relegated to the bottom drawer, I remained for what seemed like ages. Others like me were there too. Then one day our owner saw a Lions eyeglass collection box and we began our several month and 6000 mile journey to our new homes in Malawi, Africa.
Joined by hundreds of other pairs of retired glasses, we congregated in boxes and bags in garages and storerooms until the day that we were all soaked, scrubbed, cleaned, polished, measured and sorted by caring hands. We did not know that what awaited us next was a journey that would take us half way around the world to Malawi, a country that we had never heard of. Along the way we were joined by new friends from VSP Optics Group, who were specially ordered for some very patient and deserving boys and girls.
For a little background on my adventure…. The students and faculty at Verde Valley School in Sedona, Arizona have been going to Malawi since 2007 as part of the school’s Millennium Development Goals Program that was created by concerned students and faculty of VVS to align the school with the United Nations eight Millennium Development Goals. Each summer a group of students travels to Malawi to complete projects and learn firsthand what it means to grow up in a UN designated “red” (critically underdeveloped) nation.
In the past 6 summers, in Kamangilira village, VVS has built three primary school teachers’ houses, built a large community center, tutored students in English, math and earth science, resurfaced all of the dirt covered classroom floors with concrete, painted murals and resurfaced blackboards in classrooms, placed 45 girls and boys into secondary school, distributed mosquito nets throughout the village to help combat malaria, repaired and built beds for the maternity ward of a local health clinic, and distributed much needed medical and educational supplies and sporting equipment. VVS also volunteers with Open Arms Malawi in Blantyre and Mangochi, an infant home for children orphaned by HIV/Aids
One fortuitous day, the Head of School at VVS, Graham Frey, recognized Lion Randy Crewse in a local coffee shop. They had known each other years earlier in another life and agreed to get together and reconnect. With the help of Caroline Diehl, the VVS Millenium Development Goals Program Director, a new dimension of their Malawi project was born – an eye clinic in Malawi.
Back to my story…. Along with the luggage for 7 students and 2 faculty, we were herded into more bags and boxes and jostled for more than 40 hours as we traveled from Phoenix to San Francisco to Washington DC, to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Lilongwe, Malawi.
From there we began a 10 hour bus drive to Blantyre, Malawi, crammed with twice as many people as it was designed to carry, and a preacher singing and preaching “up up Jesus… down, down devil” the entire time. We had finally almost arrived.
Organized by Lion Dr. Khumbo Kalua from the Blantyre Institute of Community Ophthalmology, a Lions Sight First Eye Clinic, we traveled another hour outside of Blantyre and were unloaded in the midst of 800 Malawians. They had descended upon Chirazula District Hospital hoping for a chance to see better and have their vision issues addressed.
At the clinic, the VVS students gathered necessary intake information on all patients and were taught to do preliminary vision loss screening. They referred those with potential problems on to the team of four technicians and Dr. Kalua to have a full exam and be outfitted with glasses.
That day, I finally came home, along with 400 of my friends on this epic journey, to ride on some extremely happy faces. Being useful and loved again by someone filled with gratitude made all those lonely days seem worthwhile.
The best stories of the day, however, came not from me, but from my fellow travelers that we picked up on the way from VSP Optics Group, those special order guys I told you about . They found themselves on the faces of children that were able to see for the first time.
Those children were uplifted from a life of learning to read by Braille, to one of enjoying the gift of sight. The looks of wonder and amazement on those beautiful faces will long be remembered by all of us who witnessed that amazing transformation. I really wanted to be one of those special order guys that day.
Thanks to all the caring individuals and companies
that made my fabulous journey home possible.
With gratitude to:
Sedona Oak Creek Canyon Lions Club
Dr. Serge Wright
Verde Valley School
VVS MGD student participants who said it was the best part of their 3 weeks in Malawi
Blantyre Institute of Community Ophthalmology
Dr. Khumbo Kalua
VSP One Tampa Bay
VSP Optics Group
More pictures from my journey home