The two ladies used to be the best of friends. Around ten years ago one of them went blind in her second eye and could no longer walk safely to meet up with her friend. Her friend also suffered complete loss of vision in one eye and partially in her other. They sat next to each at the clinic without being aware they were next to one another. The clinic was busy; around two hundred and fifty patients came throughout the day. As the afternoon moved to early evening we had identified eighteen patients who were blind from cataract and all were willing to come to make the three-hour journey (largely off road) to town for treatment.
The two friends of old were in the group of eighteen and as their names were read out they simultaneously realised that the person sat next to them was an old friend. Although we couldn’t follow exactly what they were saying to one another it was clear they were both in disbelief and excitement. From that point on the old friends sat next to each other, the lady with partial sight becoming a guide to the lady with no sight.
The hospital van arrived a few hours later and took the patients to St Mary’s hospital in preparation for surgery the next morning.
The surgical team worked tirelessly till 6pm operating and restoring sight with incredible levels of skill and stamina.
Thanks to having the TED/Mazda film crew with us we had a rare opportunity to witness the day after surgery, not something we’ve seen very often as we are usually preparing the next clinics. The patients from the remote village all sat anxiously anticipating having their patches off. The two friends, hand in hand had not left each others side. Dr George, the amazing surgeon, took the patches off one at a time. The old men and women slowly opening their eyes and taking in their surroundings. One grandfather jumped to his feet, clapping his hands and excitedly shouting that he could see. For those still waiting the anticipation was growing. The lady before the two old friends seemed, in a single moment, to become ten years younger. She dropped her stick, jumped to her feet and pulled off some dance moves that school kids of today would have been proud of.
It was eventually the turn of the two friends. The lady blind in two eyes spent several long seconds staring out at us and taking in everything around her, she then turned to her friend absorbing the image of an old friend who was several years older then she remembered. Soon her friend too was looking back at her and their half toothless smiles were shared as they embraced, old friends reunited.
Moments like this are humbling; I found my own eyes fill with tears as it became impossible to hide the overwhelming feeling of gratitude to be involved in such work.
Recipe – Goat and Ugali Pie
Adapted from a combo Paul Hollywood’s Goat Herd Pie and Chilli Beef Cornbread Pie
- For the filling
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 2 celery sticks, de-stringed and chopped
- 125g butternut squash, peeled and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- ½ tsp coarse sea salt
- 500g goat mince
- 1 tbsp roughly chopped green olives
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 150ml red wine
- 150ml beef stock
- 1 tbsp chopped rosemary
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- freshly ground black pepper
- For the topping
- 125g plain flour
- 125g cornmeal/ugali
- ½ tsp salt
- 115g unsalted butter melted and slightly cooled
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 125ml butter milk
- 125ml Goat’s Yoghurt
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 75g cheddar cheese, grated
- Preheat the oven to 190ºC
- To make the filling, heat one tablespoon of the oil in a wide frying pan over a medium-low heat. Add the onions, celery and squash and cook gently for about 10 minutes, or until the onions begin to soften.
- Put the garlic in a pestle and mortar with the sea salt and crush to a paste. Add the anchovies and bash to form a rough paste. Add this mixture to the pan of vegetables. Cook gently for about five minutes, stirring, so the anchovies begin to ‘melt’. Remove the contents of the pan to a bowl, leaving any oil behind.
- Increase the heat under the pan. Add a little more oil if necessary, and half the mince. Cook, stirring, until it is browned, then add it to the vegetables. Repeat with the remaining mince then return all the meat and vegetables to the pan.
- Add the olives. Stir in the tomato purée and flour and cook gently for 2-3 minutes. Add the wine and stock, bring to the boil then simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add the rosemary and cinnamon and season with salt and pepper (if needed – the anchovies are already quite salty).
- Transfer the meat to an oven dish with around 1.2 litre/2 pints capacity.
- For the topping, put the potatoes in a pan, cover with water, add a little salt and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Drain well, then mash them or push through a ricer back into the hot pan, and stir in the butter.
- Spread the mash over the meat in the dish. Combine the crumbled goat’s cheese and parmesan and sprinkle over the potato.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden-brown and crusty and the filling is bubbling.
- Leave to stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.