Akamba Aid Fund is an independent charitable trust based in South Somerset. It was set up in 1999 with the aim of enabling the poorest rural communities in Eastern Kenya to have access to the essentials of life that we take for granted and have done for generations. It was registered with the Charity Commission in 2000 (No. 1083554)
The name is taken from the Akamba tribe, which is the fifth largest of the forty two tribes in Kenya. The Akamba number around two million who inhabit mainly the Eastern Province of the country which is an extremely arid part of the world. The local people are descended from hunter pastoralists, no longer nomadic, but totally reliant on their few goats, cattle, chicken and a little land to provide for their families. AAF's operations are centred on the Mwingi District which is approx 240 kms. north east of Nairobi. In this region there is virtually no employment and where nearly 60% of the population lives below recognised poverty levels of $1 a day.
AAF Trustee Simon Frackiewicz a trained Optometrist, and a partner in the Robert Frith Practices based in Somerset has now extended the work of AAF by setting up an eye clinic based at Gai Health Centre to help alleviate some of the many eye problems of the local people.
Simon says - "In November 2007 I was invited to join Dr James Buckle on a visit to Tei Wa Yesu clinic at Gai, in my capacity as an Optometrist. My principle objective was to test the sight of the local community, and provide spectacles where possible. I took with me a large number of donated glasses from my practices. It was also my intention to provide some basic training in eye testing in order that it wouls be possible for clinic staff to continue eye examinations in my absence.
As a result, I had to take with me all the necessary equipment, medication, and in the region of 600 pairs of spectacles, incorporating as wide a range of prescriptions as possible. My first day at the clinic proved to be the most challenging of my career with an unprecedented level of demand for the service.
People had travelled from all over the Kamba region, in some cases covering distances of ove 70kms. and others staying overnight just to ensure they would be seen. As a result, at one point there were more than 40 people waithing to have their eyes tested, a far cry from my clinics at home. With the help of Dr. Buckle, 170 people underwent eye examinations in four days of testing, with a further 450 children receiving a basic test one morning at the local school.
The majority of people attending complained of reduced near vision, particularly when reading the Bible, with sorting seeds, and threading needles posing similar problems.Where possible, spectacles were dispensed, and in all approximately 150 pairs were provided to children and adults alike.
Sadly, there were many cases of poor vision which I was unable to help, largely because of some form of eye disease. I tested a dozen people who were completely blind due to cataract, a situation which rarely , if ever is allowed to occur in the UK. With a simple operation costing less than £100, their lives could be transformed, significantly improving the quality of their lives, and of their relatives who are required to care for them.
There were many other cases of trauma to the eyes which had resulted in loss of vision due to the lack of eyecare facilities in the area. Overall the experience was very rewarding, and it was a priviledge to help so many people to be able to see well. It was clear that there is much more work still to be done,in particular raising money to fund cataract operations for those who had lost their sight. Fortunately, I was able teach a member of the clinic staff, Dorcas, the fundamental elements of an eye examination, and at the time of writing the article, she had tested a further 25 people.
Robert Frith Optometrists are proud to support AAF both financially and practically. You too can help by making a financial donation, or donating unused spectacles, at any of our practices.
AAF have now raised enough money to build a proper eye clinic! This resource will be invaluable to the Akamba community. As well as visiting specialists from the UK a full time ophthalmic nurse is to be trained and in post and we are both pleased and proud to sponsor the cost of the nurse to ensure continuity of care into the future.