Maeve Higgins on the Mozambique Eyecare Project

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Maeve Higgins

There are thousands of meaningful and worthwhile development projects happening at any one time. It can be baffling to choose which ones to throw one’s weight behind. Some of the reasons I chose the Mozambique Eyecare Project are rooted in my childhood. I wore glasses from the age of three, a patch for six months in primary school, and had surgery for a strabismus. I loved going to the optometrist because it meant alone time with my mother, a rare thing when you are one of seven! I was a clumsy child and often managed to smash up my glasses.  I will never forget the feeling of dread when that happened. I knew my parents would be cross and worried about the expense of a new pair, and that my head would ache after twenty minutes until I got a new pair. It’s terrifying to  imagine being a small child with no option of  a simple pair of glasses: the pain and the fear would surely be overwhelming. I was looked after so well as a child in need of help, even the operation felt like a treat. I was four but I still remember that the surgeon made me laugh, the nurses gave me icecream, my parents read to me for days and my vision improved massively. Had I been born in Mozambique, where there are just fifteen ophthamologists for a population almost five times the size of Ireland’s, my story would be horribly different. There needs to be more ophthalmologists, optometrists and mid – level eyecare professionals. That is why I support Optometry Giving Sight and the Mozambique eyecare project.

It also registers as important to me because when I was nine my family moved to Zimbabwe, my father was working there as a construction manager. I didn’t meet any Mozambicans but heard lots of stories about our neighbouring country. One story that upset me at the time still does, about girls and women from Mozambique selling their hair across the border to the then wealthier Zimbabweans. As an adult I know that this is not the worst thing ever, but  I still can’t believe that that is what those ladies were driven to, because me and my sisters loved our hair! It is not fair that so many Mozambicans are unable to access eye care, so it is important to support those trying to change that, like the Mozambique Eyecare Project. This project’s appeal is that it aims to train eyecare professionals in Nampula, loads of them!  This creates an inevitable sustainability that is vital. When I first spoke to Aoife Phelan about this project, I was excited at the prospect of getting involved with such a positive, necessary initiative. I still am excited about it and look forward to learning more and raising funds to help the project grow.  I’m grateful I was asked to be a patron and happy to try and do something practical to work on such a brilliantly straightforward project.