Smiles and Tears Mark Reaction of Man after Cataract Surgery in PNG

A volunteer coordinator shares some highlights of her recent experience at health clinic.

Tracey Bridcutt, Adventist Record
Smiles and Tears Mark Reaction of Man after Cataract Surgery in PNG
Local and international volunteers serve at the mega health clinic in Papua New Guinea. [Photo: 10,000 Toes Facebook account]

When Pam Townend reflects on the highlights of the recent PNG for Christ mega health clinic in Papua New Guinea, her thoughts gravitate toward a particular elderly man who needed cataract surgery.

Townend said the man had been living with cataracts for 10 years and had just accepted that it was his lot in life.

“When he heard about the mega health program, it was his wife who insisted he go,” she said. “He said that he didn’t have much faith that things would change, and then when he saw the thousands of people waiting, he almost gave up hope.”

The man was fortunate to have the life-changing surgery and, afterwards, he couldn’t contain his emotions. “His smile and tears said it all,” said Townend, who coordinates the 10,000 Toes Campaign in the South Pacific Division of the Adventist Church. “It’s the classic — a picture paints a thousand words.

“There were more highlights from the clinic than one could possibly write down, but it was the cataract surgeries that topped it off for me — giving back sight to people who had not had 20/20 vision for many long years.”

The elderly man was among 10,435 people who were seen by the clinic, based at Togoba, 15 minutes from Mount Hagen in the Western Highlands. An initiative of the 10,000 Toes Campaign and Adventist World Radio, the clinic was held in the lead-up to PNG for Christ. It was manned by more than 175 international volunteers serving alongside 400-plus 10,000 Toes ambassadors. Along with cataract surgeries, the services ranged from diabetes screenings to dental treatments, women’s health, counseling, optometry, and pediatrics checks.

From a 10,000 Toes perspective, Townend said, “we continue to meet people who do not know they have diabetes. Amputations are starting to take off in PNG, which is catching up to other South Pacific countries which have battled with this problem for a lot longer.

“Not having access to simple health services, like a blood sugar reading or blood pressure check, does not allow people to understand their health needs.”

According to Townend, there were many “God moments” during the clinic, and these helped the volunteers get through the long days. Since returning home, the volunteers continue to connect and reflect on their time in PNG.

“As volunteers, I don’t believe we ever return home the same,” she said. “There are a number of things that happen. Firstly, you bond as a volunteer group. You make new friends and grow together. Almost two weeks have passed since we left Togoba, and still lots of chat happens on WhatsApp on a daily basis, as people continue to connect and reflect.”

After the PNG for Christ campaign ends, 10,000 Toes will continue its work in PNG through locally trained ambassadors.

The original version of this story was posted by Adventist Record.

Tracey Bridcutt, Adventist Record