Thanks and Season’s Greetings!

As we come towards Christmas and the end of the year, we send our thankful greetings to all who have contributed one way or another to the work of Focus on Malawi and The Raven Trust. Together, you have made it possible to help establish and extend eye healthcare facilities in northern Malawi amongst some of the poorest people in the world.

And despite the pandemic, local staff have been making great progress (see previous posts). Clinical visits have not been possible for the past two years, but we have been able to continue to source vital clinical and optical equipment in the UK, and it has been successfully delivered to the various clinics.

Our warm greetings go also to everyone with whom we are in regular contact in Malawi who are making things — clinical and practical — happen. We pray God’s peace and blessings in your work, families and communities.

Our latest email newsletter “Newslink” is published

Twice a year we publish an email update on what’s been happening with Focus on Malawi. You can read our recently-released Newslink here (as well as previous editions), and you can sign up to our Newslink mailing list here. This newsletter is administered through the MailChimp system, and you can cancel your subscription at any time.

Community eye health screening programme launched at Livingstonia

A new, comprehensive programme to promote eye health care in the community has been launched at The David Gordon Memorial Hospital (DGMH), Livingstonia. The programme involves re-opening the eye clinic at the hospital (closed in 2019 following the death of the clinician), and the provision of eye health screening in remote clinics and schools falling within the DGMH catchment area.

The first part of the plan included the appointment of an optometrist at the eye clinic at DGMH – who is Ms Tabu Chisi. And since June 2021, Ms Chisi has been delivering a comprehensive training programme for community screening, to include healthcare staff and patient attendants, as well as schoolteachers and local community leaders.

Training primary healthcare and patient assistant staff to screen for eye health at David Gordon Memorial Hospital, Livingstonia

The first batch of trainees – community healthcare workers and patient attendants – hard at work at DGMH.

Training for healthcare and patient attendant staff to screen for eye health at David Gordon Memorial Hospital, Livingstonia

Now they’re ready to serve the people in their catchment area!

Entrance to eye clinic at David Gordon Memorial Hospital, Livingstonia, Malawi

Banners at the entrance to the eye clinic at Livingstonia announce to local people that help with their sight problems is available within.

The Raven Trust was approached early in 2021 by DGMH’s hospital management with an outline plan for this programme, with a request to fund its early stages. Following evaluation and discussion, we were very happy to play a part in this well-considered project. The request also happened to coincide with an unexpected and very generous donation to the Trust. This enabled things to move ahead while being able to maintain our commitment to funding staff training at the other mission hospitals. We thank God for his perfect timing!

The programme at Livingstonia is the kind of development in community eye healthcare that The Raven Trust has been working ultimately to see established at the mission hospitals, and we feel very excited now to witness this happening – especially as it has been initiated, devised and implemented by local management and staff.

Shipping news

We report the successful arrival in Ekwendeni in May (2021) of a 40ft container which departed The Bananabox Trust’s depot at Dundee back in March this year. Focus on Malawi items in this delivery included measured glasses and optical equipment destined for Ekwendeni and Embangweni mission hospitals, as well as for Mzimba and Rumphi government hospitals.

The latest container from UK arrives in Ekwendeni, May 2021

The latest container arrival at Ekwendeni Mission Hospital contains essential equipment for hospitals, schools and churches in the region.

We’re also very pleased to report another full container departure from Dundee last month (June 2021), with 27 of our boxes. We sent, in addition to the usual glasses supplies, batches of vision testing materials for the newly-reopened clinic at Livingstonia mission hospital, and its new community eye-health screening programme (see separate post). Grateful thanks again to The Bananabox Trust in Dundee and all our good friends in the UK and Malawi who make these shipments, over many thousands of miles, secure and successful.

Hard-working volunteers of The Bananbox Trust packing a 40ft container at the Trust’s depot in Dundee during June 2021.

Congratulations!

In this post we celebrate some recent exam-passing by the students whose courses The Raven Trust sponsors.

Phinious Chavula and Misheck Kumwenda passed their end-of-year optometry technician exams at the Malawi College of Health Sciences, and their courses continue.

Mirriam Nyirenda has successfully passed through to the final semester of her clinical officer in ophthalmology course at the Malawi College of Health Sciences.

We know it’s been a particularly trying time for all of them with college disruptions and closures, and of course the effects of the pandemic, but they have been very patient and very determined. Well done everyone!

Misheck Kumwenda, Mirriam Nyirenda and Phinious Chavula.