Haywards Heath charity worker joins Channel 4 film crew in Africa

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A member of staff at Sightsavers, Haywards Heath, has returned from a trip to Malawi with a film crew from Channel 4’s Unreported World.

Jo Mitchell witnessed the filming of the documentary, which will air this Friday (October 16) at 7.30pm, presented by reporter and wheelchair basketball athlete Ade Adepitan.

The programme shows the challenges of treating people with cataracts - the world’s largest cause of blindness - in rural Malawi.

The episode explores some of the problems faced by people living with blindness in developing countries.

It also highlights the work carried out by Sightsavers-supported staff to provide care to patients who might not otherwise have access to treatment.

Jo, an events manager for the charity, joined Ade Adepitan as he followed Rex Bwana-Usi, an ophthalmic clinical officer (eye nurse), going about his everyday work travelling to remote screening camps to diagnose and refer patients for surgery where necessary.

Rex, who works for the Malawi Ministry of Health and is also supported by Sightsavers, covers villages spread over 3,000 square miles of bush, relying on his motorbike to get about.

The Unreported World team travelled with him to a busy eye-screening where he diagnoses a number of people with cataracts.

Great grandmother, Emeresi Jasi, known as Jess, was not certain of her age but was around 80.

She walked barefoot for three miles for the examination. She was malnourished and weak because her blindness stopped her growing food. Rex told her he may be able to restore sight in her right eye if she can have surgery quickly.

The documentary also features the story of 14-year-old Rose who’s been blind since she was a baby due to cataracts.

The stigma associated with disability in these countries can leave many children with blindness isolated and lonely.

Rex believed it is worth trying to operate on Rose, in the hope that she will gain some sight and then be able to attend her local school.

Jo said: “It was so exciting to witness the making of Unreported World: The Fight for Sight. I was really moved by the stories of Rose, Jess and all the other people I met. I can’t quite describe how amazing it is to meet a child who’s blind one day and who can see the next. To watch as they celebrate a new lease of life is an incredible privilege.

“I was lucky enough to watch some of the cataract operations and was hugely impressed by the professionalism, dedication, precision and calm approach of the surgeons and their teams. There can’t be many jobs that bring as much joy to people’s lives.”

Sightsavers is one year through its ambitious Million Miracles appeal – a campaign launched to raise enough funds to carry out one million sight-restoring operations by 2017.

All donations made to Sightsavers until December 15, will be matched by the UK government.