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Faversham couple broadcast the moment a Malawian farmer sees his grandchildren for the first time thanks to Sightsavers

By Bess Browning

A Faversham couple are documenting a life-changing operation that will allow a blind man to see his grandchildren for the first time.

Deep in the African bush, Dave Carter and Liz Scarff are working with the charity Sightsavers, which is hoping to restore the sight of a Malawian farmer.

Their aim is to broadcast across the globe the miraculous moment 69-year-old Winesi March opens his eyes and sees properly for the first time in 12 years.

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Malawi man Winesi March is having his sight restored. Picture Rachel Palmer Photography

Malawi man Winesi March is having his sight restored. Picture: Rachel Palmer Photography

Inspired by the work of Sightsavers, who work in more than 30 countries to support people with visual impairments, the couple of Park Road crammed their filming equipment into a single suitcase and travelled to the southeast African country.

Winesi, a farmer who says his loss of sight makes him feel "helpless," has had trouble with his vision for 12 years and has been fully blind for the past two years with bilateral cataracts.

He said: "I'm always scared because I feel like I am dead. There is nothing I can do for my family.

Liz Scarff, right, will film the moment a blind man's sight is restored. Picture Rachel Palmer Photography

Liz Scarff, right, will film the moment a blind man's sight is restored. Picture: Rachel Palmer Photography

"When I was able to see, I could find work and make money. I have a family to look after and provide for."

His family has travelled to the hospital for the life-changing operation, which is taking place today.

Describing the moment she met Winesi, Liz said: "He could not survive without his wife looking after him.

Mr Winesi is led by his wife Namalata. Picture Rachel Palmer Photography

Mr Winesi is led by his wife Namalata. Picture: Rachel Palmer Photography

"You cannot reach his house by the road – you can only get there on foot after you have waded through the river and then climbed a hill.

"The first time we went to his house we saw in the distance a man feeling his way around the edge of his house. He clearly could not see me – it was an arresting image."

Dave and Liz are well-established multimedia journalists and have worked on everything from the Telegraph to a media campaign for Sir Ranulph Fiennes' ascent on Everest.

Winesi March prepares for the life-changing operation. Picture Rachel Palmer Photography

Winesi March prepares for the life-changing operation. Picture: Rachel Palmer Photography

In 2009, they established Fieldcraft studios, a creative company that combines journalism, technology, media and social media with a focus on telling unique and mind-boggling stories that make a difference in the world.

Sightsavers approached them around six months ago, and they began to devise ways to showcase their extraordinary projects.

Malawi, a third-world country, has an estimated 370,000 people with low vision and 103,600 are completely blind.

Dave Carter filming on the Sightsavers assignment in Malawi. Picture Rachel Palmer Photography

Dave Carter filming on the Sightsavers assignment in Malawi. Picture: Rachel Palmer Photography

With a population of around 14.8 million, Malawi has just one cataract surgeon per million people.

The need for eye surgeons and cataract operations is vast, and the troubles start with getting the patients to a hospital.

Liz said they had to travel on a motorbike for five hours across a potholed dirt track to reach two patients for cataract surgery.

She continued: "Nothing like this has been done before – it is a very challenging project.

"We are rigging the theatre with up to four cameras, Dave has built a portable TV studio that fits in a flight case – we are using satellite technology to beam the live broadcast around the world.

"Meeting the Sightsavers staff here in Malawi and incredible surgeons like Dr Msukwa and ophthalmic surgeons like Maddalitso Nyangulu is a very humbling experience.

"The difference that they make to people's lives on a daily basis is astonishing. We are incredibly excited and proud to be telling their story."

Watch the video of the operation below, and come back tomorrow to watch the moment Winesi sees his grandchildren for the first time.

 

Video: Watch as surgeons restore Winesi March's sight

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