small foundation with a big impact

eye screening at Kikatiti

Kikatiti is home to children who have been through a great deal in their short lives, and have been given too few opportunities. They find rest here, and a safe, but above all loving, environment where they can develop themselves. These very young children live at Kikatiti, where they learn to play and cooperate, and develop the basic skills they will need to go on to primary school and the children’s home at Ngorika. In addition to focusing on their development, they also receive healthcare, which is provided by the school nurse. Every child is given a thorough medical exam when they move in, and other measurements, such as weight and height, are recorded monthly. If necessary, a doctor is contacted in the event of illness.

One of the volunteers pointed out to the managing board that none of the children wore glasses, which is how we discovered that the children had so far not been given a vision test. As we knew nothing about this, I decided it would be fun to take on the challenge. One of my colleagues in the Netherlands (a doctor) offered to give me some basic training in this sop that I could conduct some simple initial screening. After purchasing the necessary supplies in the Netherlands I left for Kikatiti on Saturday, 25 February. There I found 56 children and several staff members, all curious and all willing to try something new, especially if it involved a treat. After an initial explanation, I screened the staff first, so that the children would know what it involved and what to expect. They thought it was hilarious, of course, and even the gardener took part. Then the school nurse and Martha, one of the matrons, helped me set up my things in a little room so that we could get started. It all went very smoothly. All of the children were cooperative and curious; some of them shy, others a little bolder. Fortunately, the group of children I saw had no problems. They had beautiful, healthy, coordinated eyes that were able to focus and recognize even the smallest pictures. I will be recording this information on an individual screening form for each child, which can  be used for subsequent screenings, and kept on file in the child’s records. It was a good start.

During this trip to Tanzania I will also try to screen the remaining, youngest children. This was not yet possible because they had just arrived at Kikatiti and had as yet no idea what the simple pictures on the cards meant, which is not surprising given their history. Martha will be practicing with them in the coming days, but if it doesn’t work out, it can simply be done during a next visit.
On Saturday 4 March I returned to Kikatiti to conduct eye tests on the smallest children. The 14 three year-olds had only been at Kikatiti for three weeks. Such an endearing group of toddlers, who while they enjoyed the individual attention and were interested in the tasty treat, also found it a little scary. That is understandable, as some of them had probably never seen a white person from close by. They all did their best, but there was not enough time during their first week at school to practice with the cards, so we were not able to carry out the full test.
However, the good news is that the toddlers’ eyes also looked good: no infections, no misalignment, and their hand-eye and eye-mouth coordination was also good. They were all able to find and pick up a tiny grain. So, for the time being there is no cause for concern.

My objective is to transfer this knowledge to the school nurse and to some of the matrons  at some point, so that we can establish continuity in the screening process. In this way it should be possible to detect problems (or changes) in vision on time so the necessary steps can be taken. Martha and the school nurse are enthusiastic in any case; they were a great help to me and are anxious to learn. During my next visit to Tanzania I hope to start screening the children at Ngorika, and there may also be some scope for transferring skills at that point.

The individual contact with the children was heartwarming, and I enjoyed my Saturdays with them.
Pete de Jager, board member of Happy Watoto
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