After changing the outlook of hundreds of CITW children in Botswana’s Bobirwa region earlier this year, humanitarian Anton Poplett and his eye-testing team set their sights on assisting students and staff at several CITW and Painted Dog Conservation partner schools around Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. Anton picks up the story…
Heading out from Cape Town on 29 September, we crossed the border at the Limpopo River with relatively minimal fuss, COVID-testing and inevitable bureaucracy notwithstanding.
We arrived in Victoria Falls after another three days of traveling north, where we camped in Zambezi National Park, after just catching the tail end of a lion killing a kudu right after we signed in!
Then it was on to Hwange National Park, and screening 4 350 children at what ended up being 21 schools (19 planned).
The first school always takes slightly longer, with arranging and finding our feet, sorting the kit out and teaching the partners. Thereafter it was a breeze and went very smoothly, with only a handful of children needing extra attention.
It’s a true delight to hear the children’s joyful, giggling and laughter, regardless of their situation.
You can only imagine how busy we were, testing at all these schools, and in total we were able to provide eyeglasses for around 150 students, a few teachers, as well as one of the village headmen and his wife.
There were two specific encounters that stand out from this particular outreach that both still bring a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes.
This 11-year-old boy was very quiet and kept to himself. The teacher did not completely appreciate that he could not see the chalkboard correctly, so the boy just quietly got on with life. Upon reflection, I understand sometimes what it is like, ‘just getting on with life’. Then watching him see himself for the first time broke my soul with happiness.
Anele has exceptionally light-pigment albinism, and her eyesight needs were too complicated for in-theatre assistance, let alone our snap-on refraction strengths. The main solution she needed urgently was a pair of sunglasses, which we managed to organise for her a few days after meeting her.
Soon afterwards I received this note from the headmaster of her school: ‘Good morning, we have given Anele the sunglasses today in the morning. We really thank you and appreciate the help you are giving our learners. May the Lord be with you always. Thank you once again. Mr S Nyoni (Head Nechilibi)’.
Thank you Victron Energy Southern Africa for the generous sponsorship that has made this project possible.
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