Thousands of lives transformed

Local and international volunteers who manned the mega health clinic (Credit: 10,000 Toes Facebook page)

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When Pam Townend reflects on the highlights of the PNG for Christ mega health clinic, her thoughts immediately gravitate towards a particular elderly gentleman who needed cataract surgery.

Mrs 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 Mrs Townend, 10,000 Toes Campaign coordinator for the South Pacific Division. “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 Togaba in the Western Highlands. An initiative of 10,000 Toes 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, counselling, optometry and paediatrics checks.

From a 10,000 Toes perspective, Mrs 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.”

Dental treatments were among the services offered. (Credit: 10,000 Toes Facebook page)

According to Mrs 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 Togaba 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 cataract surgery team at work.
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