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There is No One Here…Only a Blind Person By Caitlin Colvard

Fenni Amoomo awakened and opened her eyes to a world of shadowy darkness. Although she could see little else, she could tell light from darkness, and she knew it was morning. Carefully she felt her way to the opening of her tiny dirt-floored hut and called for her grandchildren, a boy and a girl, ages six and eight. Since the death of Fenni's daughter and her son-in-law from AIDS, she and her tiny grandchildren were all alone. Fenni grieved for loss of her own children, but the challenges of keeping her grandchildren alive and safe left her little time to dwell on her sadness.

That morning, my sister, Megan, was working with the Namibian Red Cross, traveling from village to village in Southwest Africa, in an effort to help children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. Their mission was to locate and provide assistance for abandoned children. As Megan approached one small, isolated hut, with the assistance of an interpreter, she called out, "Is anyone here?" From within she heard only a faint whisper, "I'm sorry there is no one here...only a blind person". Megan knelt down to the entrance of the doorway and began to speak with Fenni. Slowly Fenni began to tell the heartbreaking story of her family. Tears came to her eyes as she described the terrible helplessness and guilt she felt in being unable to care for her "little children". Megan wondered silently if our father,a visiting volunteer eye surgeon with the Ministry of Health in Namibia, might be able to help Fenni. He was scheduled to leave the village early the following morning, and move on to another area. It was already late in the day, and there was no time to waste.

Megan rushed back to the eye camp to see if our father could see "just one more patient". He and his colleagues had performed 150 cases in three days. They were tired and were beginning to pack up their equipment, but Dad broke away and quickly evaluated Fenni. He determined that cataracts were the cause of her blindness, and the team eagerly accepted their last patient.

Very early the following morning my father and Megan made rounds at the hospital. When they arrived in Fenni's room, she was not among the other patients. She was already dressed and perched on a small wooden bench outside her room. Her smile told all. She reached out and brought Megan close to her. Touching Megan's face, she looked into her eyes, and spoke. "My daughter, God's grace helped you to find me and God's pity has made me see again. Thank you for helping me". As tears began to flow down Fenni's cheeks, Megan reached to wipe away tears of her own. Fenni and Megan were different in a thousand ways, but these differences seemed to vanish as they sat silently next to each other.

Their lives will be forever connected. Fenni will now be able to care for her loved ones, simply because Megan came to her doorway. Thanks to "only a blind person, "Megan will now have hope and confidence that each of us can make a small difference in a world too often filled with dark shadows.

Working with the Namibian Red Cross, Megan found Fenni living in a tiny isolated hut at the edge of the desert. Although blind for years, Fenni was struggling to care for her two small grandchildren, orphaned by the AIDS epidemic.

Fenni became one of many patients from the village of Ondangwa who received the gift of sight through SEE International's volunteer program. Dr. Michael Colvard, Megan's father, performed Fenni's procedure.

Fenni celebrates with Megan, Dr. Helena Ndume, Director of the Blindness Prevention Project in Namibia, and Dr. Michael Colvard of SEE International after regaining her vision.

Megan Colvard and Caitlin Colvard are college students at Berkeley and Duke, respectively.

They have visited Africa with their Dad as SEE volunteers for the past four years.

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