Mama Edith, blind since 4 months old, is determined, dedicated and loving. As a blind person, she has known suffering, poverty and hard physical labor. She was married and bore 3 children. Her husband, also blind and at one time her teacher, had children with 7 other women. The hard labor did not break her, but her husband almost did.
Faith, her job as a mother, her job as a savior to abused blind people and sheer determination have marked her life. When I ask her about her life, she tells me about others who are blind. Stories of neglect, abuse and torture. She speaks more easily of other’s pain than her own.
The work she was trained in, caning chairs, (imagine caning chairs as a blind person) was sparse, and land where she could dig and plant not always easy to reach as a blind person. Imagine being blind and keeping a garden: imagine your children dependent on you and your garden! Edith feels she was able to bear the suffering because she has strong faith and there were always so many people more desperate, more abused who needed her. She could not abandon her children nor the blind who depended on her.
After a lifetime of struggle, Edith managed the $300 to buy the house pictured below. It became the first school for the blind. It was a dark hovel, but hers. She finally owned a home. Quickly she took in 4 orphans. One of the 4 orphans would lead Edith to a strip of land along the railroad tracks each morning. Edith farmed the small piece of land. She planted seeds, prayed for rain, weeded and harvested meager amounts of beans and roots. Even as a blind lady, she searched for fire wood and carried it home on her head. She cooked and taught the 10 blind people soon living with her to cook.
The house filled with orphans and blind students rapidly. Food and medical care were meager or not at all. Conditions became unsanitary with too many people living in a small space. The local leaders threatened to close the school when during the heavy rains the toilet overflowed in the small village.
Many children who are blind are locked in houses with no social interaction for years. Some are drowned, beaten, tortured. Education is withheld. Mama Edith took in more blind children that the house could hold. People were living almost on top of one another. The small dark rooms were overflowing not only with sewage but with people when Mama Maria met Mama Edith, together they built the School for the Blind. It opened in 2015. This one paragraph sounds like this happened overnight. It was several years of struggle until by a miracle, a small, but clean and safe school was built.
When the blind students here sing, the beauty of their voices takes my breath away. Many are not attractive because their eyes are damaged. In the place of vision, God gave them magnificent voices. Their music sits deep in my heart. Those of you who know me well know how sensitive my ears are. Their music is perfect.
Two weeks ago I delivered items from the US to the Blind School. They received tapes in their language, a radio-CD player, a Braille Bible, and CD’s, a small keyboard, a melodica, and drums. Karen Gerrald and Carol McCabe, both blind Americans managed the packing of 10 boxes! Blind Africans now have a Brailler to write Braille and the leader of the school who is sighted has an iPad where he can learn Braille.