Eliminating avoidable blindness – for all the world to see!

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Charity Spotlight: This post was provided by Elizabeth Roden, Donor Communications Specialist at Operation Eyesight Universal, as part of our ongoing charity spotlight series.

Students at Kenya’s Kishermoruak Primary School now have access to clean water for washing.
Students at Kenya’s Kishermoruak Primary School now have access to clean water for washing.

Trachoma is a blinding eye disease prevalent in Kenya’s Narok District. Caused by bacterial infection, the disease spreads easily through contact with eye discharge transmitted from those infected.  Discharge can be transmitted via hands, shared towels, clothing, or direct transmission by flies.

But trachoma is preventable – proper sanitation can prevent contamination, and that is exactly what Sarah Kiruri is working to encourage each and every day.

Sarah’s Story

Sarah Kiruri is truly a hometown hero. A teacher at Kishermoruak Primary School, Sarah is dedicated to preventing the spread of trachoma by encouraging her students to wash their hands and faces regularly.  After joining the school in 2008, Sarah and her colleagues would spend long hours looking for water and traveling to the nearest source of dirty pond water seven kilometres away. When Sarah arrived, personal hygiene at Kishermoruak Primary School was poor since the little water available was used for cooking and essential tasks only, but that soon changed all due to the work of Operation Eyesight.

After receiving training from Operation Eyesight, a Canadian-based international development organization, Sarah has taken up the fight against trachoma. Our training taught her the importance of personal hygiene, and now, Sarah inspects all 380 students every morning when she arrives at 7:00 a.m.  Sarah ensures their faces, hands and fingernails are clean before they go to class and if a student does not meet the cleanliness standards, they are enlisted to sweep classrooms or clean the washing bay. Her students have even given her the nickname “Mama Safi,” meaning “mother of cleanliness” because of her important role stressing personal hygiene.

But Sarah’s story does not end there. In continuing with her amazing community advocacy work determined to eliminate trachoma, Sarah ventures out to homesteads on weekends to talk to women in neighbouring communities about the importance of facial cleanliness and the use of latrines. The villages have a long history of living with little water and have never placed importance on facial hygiene. Changing their attitudes can be challenging, but Sarah is determined to make a difference.

Aside from training and education, Operation Eyesight built a borehole to provide villagers with clean water to help stop the spread of trachoma all thanks to the generosity of our Canadian donors.  Now that teachers at Kishermoruak Primary School have a convenient method to access water, they are now able to spend much more time coaching their students.  As a result, the school’s performance has improved dramatically, and the student population has almost doubled!

“We no longer have to walk long distances to look for water and I now have enough time to relax and plan for tomorrow’s lessons,” says Sarah who has expressed her gratitude to Operation Eyesight and its donors for helping her discover her hidden passion of working with communities. “We used to suffer from waterborne diseases, but now we are healthy.”

Each morning, Sarah inspects her students’ faces, hands and fingernails to ensure they are clean
Each morning, Sarah inspects her students’ faces, hands and fingernails to ensure they are clean.
Sarah is known by her students as “Mama Safi,” meaning: Mother of Cleanliness.
Sarah is known by her students as “Mama Safi,” meaning: Mother of Cleanliness.

Together, Operation Eyesight and its supporters are working to eliminate trachoma and prevent blindness – for all the world to see!
To learn more about Operation Eyesight, please visit their Charity Profile Page »

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