Jordanian influencers head to Kenya on medical mission

Jordanian influencers participated in a medical mission organized by United Mission for Relief and Development in Wajir County, Kenya, in October 2022. (Photos: UMR)
Nestayha, a 7-year-old girl from Wajir, Kenya lost her hearing after she became sick and her eardrums ruptured.اضافة اعلان

Jumana, a Somali woman living in Kenya, was partially blinded due to a cataract (a cloudy eye lense) for more than 30 years.

How were the fates of these two intertwined? For each patient, a small donation — as little as JD70 — enabled them to be cured. Sight was restored to the older woman, and hearing to the little girl.

While JD70 may seem like a small barrier to a life-changing operation, in Kenya it is the equivalent of a family’s income for three months.

Thankfully for Nestayha and Jumana, a charity fundraiser to aid Kenyans suffering from chronic hearing and sight loss provided the funds for their operations, which were completed during a medical mission to Wajir County from October 17-19.

The United Mission for Relief and Development (UMR), an organization committed to assisting marginalized and underserved communities in building their capacity toward resilience, was the driving force behind the annual fundraiser. During the mission led by UMR, cataract surgeries were performed and hearing aids were distributed to underprivileged and vulnerable populations, giving them the chance to lead healthy lives with their senses restored.

For this year’s mission, UMR brought along influencers from around the world — including a handful of content creators and bloggers from Jordan and neighboring countries: Kasem Hato, known as Ibn Hattuta, Mohammad Al-Sabbagh, Raghda Kyomejian, Mohammad Selini, Jae Deen, and the brand Wear the Peace. During the mission, the influencers shared glimpses from the mission on their social media profiles and encouraged people to donate via a link.

“I went to Kenya with UMR last year, and I saw how horrible the situation is in Wajir County with my own eyes,” said Ibn Hattuta in an interview with Jordan News. He explained that he saw people who have been partially blind for years because they do not have 100 dollars to do the cataract operation.

“So this year, once they decided to do another campaign, I wanted to be part of it and do my best to help the people there,” the influencer said. “I contacted a few friends of mine to join in the campaign and help raise donations.”

For several years, UMR has chosen Wajir County for its mission because “the need there is huge”, Ibn Hattuta added.

Hearing clearly, for the first time
Why is there such a high rate of incidence of these conditions — more than 3,000 cases — in Wajir and its surrounding counties? The weather, exposure to the intense brightness of the sun, lack of proper nutrition, aging, and the fact that people cannot afford surgery early on, according to Ibn Hattuta, are among the reasons for the high number of vision and hearing problems.
‘Each has a role, one won’t succeed in helping people in need without the other, and we’re all obliged to give back’
Although these conditions may seem minor, those suffering from a cataract not only lose their ability to see the world and their loved ones clearly — it also affects their ability to perform daily tasks, which leads to poverty, unemployment, and lack of access to food. Additionally, vision impairment may result in isolation and a continual deterioration of mental health. Children who suffer from impairments such as hearing loss also miss out on countless opportunities, such as education and forming deep, meaningful relationships with peers.

The mission’s surgeons, mostly locals, work as volunteers, while UMR’s fundraiser pays to bring in surgical equipment that is not available in Wajir, as well as aftercare medicines and hearing aids.

“The highlights of the mission were the moments when the doctors installed and turned on the hearing aids for the children, the moment when we saw their reactions to hearing clearly for the first time in their lives,” reflected Ibn Hattuta.

“The happiness that people had when the doctors took off the bandage after a cataract surgery… The feeling is overwhelming and reminds me of the reason I raise donations,” he said.

Social responsibility
This year, the influencers helped UMR to raise around $160,000 (JD113,440) for both cataract surgeries and hearing aids for children.

“Almost 1,600 people directly benefited from the surgeries and hearing aids, and many more indirectly, as it affects the whole family when, for example, a father is partially blind since he needs to work to provide for all of them,” he said.

Balancing relatability with fame, Ibn Hattuta and the other content creators were eager to show the world in its complexity, and to shine light on a crisis to which most people are oblivious.

“I believe this is part of the responsibility of anyone who gets any kind of social influence — be it fame or important connections — to use that power at least once in a while to contribute to a good cause,” the influencer said.

He noted that several organizations exist that lay the foundation to help people in need, but they need a boost from those with social influence to advance their causes.

“Influencers and content creators mostly don’t have the means of laying such foundations for helping people in need, so we need those who lay them. That’s why it’s important to collaborate. Each has a role, one won’t succeed in helping people in need without the other, and we’re all obliged to give back,” he concluded.

Although the struggle for justice, equality, and empowerment is far from over, and being healthy and safe is a privilege that millions of people around the world do not enjoy, such fundraisers, medical missions, and social media coverage highlight the importance of unity and global cooperation in the pursuit of a better world.

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