Eyes 4 Zimbabwe began as an effort to provide the people of Zimbabwe with cataract surgery, and quickly expanded to much more.
In 1996, professional golfer Reeve Nield of Zimbabwe took a visiting pediatric ophthalmic plastic surgeon to their largest hospital for surgery demonstrations for other ophthalmic surgeons.
One doctor introduced Nield to a 12-year-old girl who had been blind due to cataracts for four years.
“Her patches had just been taken off and she could see for the first time in 4 years and I just started to cry and I asked, ‘Why?’ and they said there’s not enough surgeons, not enough equipment, not enough supplies, and from that point forward, it was just a catalyst for me,” Nield said.
Nield approached fellow golfer and South Africa native, Laurette Maritz, about how they could help.
“There were a lot of naysayers, people who said, ‘It’s impossible, it’s way expensive. You’re working in a country with no money,’ So I probably told them, ‘With or without you we’re going to do it,’” Nield said.
In Zimababwe, more than 60,000 people are blind due to cataracts. Mothers who have had German measles before pregnancy often have children with bilateral cataracts.
Professional golfer Cecilie Lundgreen from Norway joined Nield and Maritz to start the charity project Eyes 4 Zimbabwe.
Nield invited 10 professional golfers to raise funds for 14 eye camps in the country. A single eye camp had up to 10,000 people coming in a span of four to receive surgery.
“Being a part of that and actually being there when they go in blind, and these are young kids, these are old people, and they have the surgery and the next day the patch comes off and they can see is really life changing,” Nield said.
Nield saw another big need: most children in Zimbabwe did not have school supplies.
Eyes 4 Zimbabwe put together backpacks for children with pens, pencils and a magazine about families from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints inside.
“Most children have never held a book or seen a reading book,” Nield said. “So now they can take that home to the children in their home, in their areas who don’t get to go to school and they can read and teach their friends and family members how to read and write.”
The trio then expanded the scope of Eyes 4 Zimbabwe to include mothers and their newborns by offering kits when the mothers come to their clinic.
“So these mothers, rather than giving birth in their remote village, they will make that journey because they know they’re going to get a newborn kit, but that could possibly
save their life and their baby’s life,” Nield said.
They noticed another need in 2005. Eyes 4 Zimbabwe decided to help new Latter-day Saint missionaries from Zimbabwe receive supplies for their missionary service. They help provide clothing, food, surgeries, dental work and hygiene supplies.
Incoming missionaries each receive a suitcase containing clothing, towels, and most importantly, scriptures.
“The highlight would have to have been just seeing these youth so excited, but what they were most excited about was the scriptures,” Nield said.
Eyes 4 Zimbabwe is going strong in each of its areas: cataract surgery, school supplies, newborn kits and missionary supplies. To get involved, visit their facebook page.