As surely as the sun rises
New Sight News – December 2021
Have you noticed how news cycles seem to be full of stories of gloom and doom these days? We are thankful to bring you stories of hope and glad tidings from Congo! Because of your generous support, we are happy to see many patients helped and lives transformed. But before we share with you all that we have been able to accomplish together, we must report on an exciting game changer – On 6 October 2021, at 6:31pm (GMT+1), in the capital of Congo, Joyce Hoi Yan Samoutou-Wong ate sashimi in a local restaurant for the first time since she first set foot in Africa in 2000, and life as she knew it was never the same again! As surely as the sun rises, the future is bright and glorious!
Happy First Anniversary at Rue André Sama location!
We’ve been at Rue André Sama for 1 year! Last year we moved to our new location on 5 November and resumed services the very next day! We are super grateful for the team’s tireless work that day to ensure our services had minimal disruption. The Ouesso Pioneers had the clinic wall and road signs painted, and received eye equipment and uniforms supported by generous donors, which empowered us to serve our community. Our Interim Eye Centre had a reception, administration areas, as well as consultation and examination rooms. The bigger space also allowed our training school to move into the same site, where the trainees learnt theory and celebrated their graduation earlier this year. The students who passed their exams are continuing their practical training with us. Under Henri’s supervision, they have begun consulting and examining patients! Recently, we also turned one of the rooms into an optical workshop – the first of its kind in Congo (see more below). We are so thankful for our first year at Rue André Sama, and look forward to expanding our services to help more people receive new sight new life!
New Sight became the first and only manufacturer of prescription glasses in Congo!
This summer, our eye centre received a lens edger machine that was generously donated by Optical 88 Hong Kong, and together with the life-transforming lenses donated by ZEISS Vision Care, it enabled us to locally produce prescription glasses! Rosette, an 11-year-old from Ouesso, was the first patient to try our freshly made new glasses! She has been suffering from refractive error, and together with her rare prescription, she has been struggling to see for years. Her badly scratched pair of glasses did not even have any arms! Needless to say, Rosette and her family were overjoyed to see that New Sight can now make glasses and that she can finally see clearly! They were shocked when they realised that our cost is only a quarter of what they would have had to pay if they had gone to a shop in the capital to send the prescription off to Europe! (Notice Cherissa has the same frames as Rosette – she made her own glasses as well!) We are so excited to bring sight-restoration through our new ability to locally produce prescription glasses, and we are honoured to be able to meet this great need of the community with your help and support!
Meeting the new Minister of Health
On 7 October 2021, our founders Joyce and Henri Samoutou, along with our Brazzaville teammate Patrick Ngoma, were honoured to be invited to a meeting at the Ministry of Health and Population, Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, by the new Minister, Mr Gilbert Mokoki and the new Director of Cooperation, Ms Jacqueline Claire Nzalankazi. When we showed the video testimony of one of our formerly blind patients who can now see, we were very surprised that the Minister turned out to know him personally! (See the video here: https://www.newsightcongo.com/patientstories-boniface/) Upon seeing the photos of our patients before and after their sight-giving treatments, the Minister said, ‘They are completely changed. The light of the body is the eye!’
During the meeting that ran for more than an hour, we celebrated all the life-transforming work that we have accomplished through our partnership, and together laid a roadmap and agreed on concrete plans to bring more help to the communities in the days to come, especially in matters relating to construction of the new hospital and overseas shipment. We were most encouraged by their readiness and commitment to help, and in their words, ‘to accompany us’ in our endeavours.
Victor and Jack’s volunteer mission
Our volunteer extraordinaire Victor Kam had travelled from Hong Kong via Singapore and Paris to Brazzaville, Congo, in July! The 37-hour journey with a 4-hour layover in Paris turned into 60+ hours because of an overnight delay! The whole team rallied behind him and searched options and rearranged his travel plans. Even though he missed the biweekly Brazzaville-Ouesso flight, he took the 10-12-hour car ride with the Samoutou family. What wonderful meeting he had with our Brazzaville staff Patrick in the capital, and the whole team in Ouesso. Here’s a happy gathering in at the Ouesso Team Compound, of Victor, the Samoutous, site engineer Spencer, eye nurse Esperence, staff Sabin, and his wife Francine and son Boaz. As for his mission? He coordinated the shipping of the lens edger from Hong Kong and despite the delay of release from customs, he and machine were reunited and he passed on glasses-making skills to Henri and Cherissa, among others.
Next, he travelled with New Sight staff Patrick and Spencer and our US visitor Jack Eisenbach, also a volunteer extraordinaire and amazing engineer who flew hours and hours here, to work on plans for our future eye hospital. Jack has been helping New Sight continually with 2 other experienced engineers in the US for our hospital plans, and we are very thankful for his dedication and efforts. Victor and Jack’s return journeys from Pointe Noire were circuitous as well, but they navigated any available flights and COVID restrictions, plus they returned safely home. This was quite an adventure full of blessings and unexpected joys!
Rendy and Alan’s fundraising campaign flew New Sight to the radio airwaves
Our lovely friends and amazing New Sight supporters, Rendy and Alan, were invited to the popular Commercial Radio 1 & 2 show ‘Share My Song’ in Hong Kong! They shared meaningful stories and songs from their extraordinary lives. They chose to highlight New Sight and asked the listeners to support us! We particularly cherished the stories about Alan’s experiences as a doctor, Alan and Rendy’s love story, and their friendship with our late friend and faithful volunteer Caterina. What a beautiful tribute to the brilliant lives that have been touched.
Children’s Outreach on World Sight Day 2021
The first edition of our children’s magazine was met with much excitement at schools, churches and the Department of Education. To celebrate the start of the new school year and World Sight Day 2021, the second edition of the magazine was distributed on 14 October 2021. This edition is full of fun activities that promote literacy and numeracy, and includes a special feature on healthy eating for the eyes and the body. Our team printed 5000 copies, with additional copies of the first edition for schools that had yet to receive them – now they can enjoy both editions! We love teaching the community how to ‘love your eyes’ – the theme of this year’s World Sight Day. Let’s work together to eliminate avoidable blindness and all the unnecessary suffering it brings!
Sunrise for Sight Calendar 2022
The Sunrise for Sight 2022 Calendar is out and now available for online orders: www.newsightcongo.com/sunrise. It is filled with beautiful photographs of sunrises around the world from our talented volunteers. The Three Musketeers, Cherissa, Ezra and Karis, chose the sunrise as a theme to encourage us that as we unite from different corners of the world, tomorrow will surely be brighter! Moreover, sunrises remind us of the light that we bring to our patients with your important support. The calendars are HKD100 each. Please consider our buy-10-get-1 free offer because HKD1,000 can help a patient see again through cataract surgery. Not only do the calendars make wonderful Christmas and New Year gifts, all proceeds support New Sight’s sight-restoring work and eye hospital construction. Of course, you’ll also be sharing the message of Two Front Teeth, that children can make a difference! You can watch the ad made by the Three Musketeers online now!
Thank you Bambemba family!
In October, our treasured teammates, Siko, Delphine and Michelle Bambemba, returned to their native country of Democratic Republic of Congo for family and personal reasons. We thank these original Ouesso Pioneers for bravely taking the journey with us since 2019 to open the Interim Eye Centre, teach our trainees, move from one clinic and classroom space to another many times, and contribute to our church community on weekends. We and our trainees miss Delphine the wise teacher. We miss our smartly dressed Siko at reception, in the classroom, and at key presentations for New Sight. And of course, we miss sweet Michelle who always brings joy to everyone in Ouesso. We appreciate their help in more ways than we can count, over the many aspects and needs of starting a new project in a new town and new community from zero. Our deepest gratitude and blessings to you wherever you go, Bambemba family!
Samoutou family update
We’re glad to announce another scholarship awardee in the Samoutou Family! Karis has been blessed with an academic scholarship and the Headmaster’s Award Scholarship in the same boarding school in England as Cherissa and Ezra! We are simply blown away with thankfulness that Karis can join her siblings in this amazing learning environment! Of course, we are proud of her achievements, and proud of Joyce and Henri and many friends who taught, guided and helped her and her siblings throughout the years. Glad to see her signature impish grin here with her siblings!
Brigitte’s accident and transformation
Brigitte, a 7-year-old from a village near Doungou, visited the eye centre in Impfondo on a Monday with a very painful and scarily swollen eye. She hit the wall in her house 9 days ago, and the family took her to get traditional treatment 2 days later. When that did not work, they found her some eye drops, but she only got worse. They finally brought her to the eye centre in Impfondo where she was started on antibiotics. What a difference it made! We were going to drain the abscess, but it burst spontaneously on Friday. By Saturday, Brigitte was smiling and skipping around with a bandage. On the following Monday a week later, she was posing with Ghislain for photos, back to her happy self. When she came back for check up with Ghislain a while later, she dressed up in a white frock for the occasion! Her eye is so much better now! We’re so thankful to help her regain healthy vision!
We hope that this newsletter has given you a glimpse of the tremendous impact that your support is making in Congo. Thank you for helping the sun rise again for our dear patients and family. As Joyce’s sashimi story shows, just when you think life cannot get better, it does! We look forward to more happy news in the next newsletter! If you cannot wait until the next newsletter, why don’t you check out the Samoutou family Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/theSamoutous) and Instagram page (https://www.instagram.com/thesamoutous/) for more life-affirming stories – and see why, for example, Joyce has gotten so hyper over a toilet roll!