Monday, 5 September 2016

A Little Perspective

Before I left, I got a lot of questions about what we were doing. Why new glasses? Should we being charging a small fee for them? Would the value be appreciated? What were glasses worth in Malawi?
Even Bryan and I wondered about the last one. 
Silas and Margaret have purchased glasses in their home country but the last few times it was quite the ordeal. It was suppose to be 2 weeks, which turned into a month and then the glasses never did arrive even though they were paid for. They ended up waiting until they travelled to America and bought them there.
What was most helpful was a discussion I had with a Dutch family at church. They have been missionaries in Malawi for over 9 years. Ana had purchased glasses in Blantyre last year for about $750,000 kwacha or $100US. A basic but nice frame with single vision lenses probably about $250CDN if you bought it. I know what you're thinking....great deal!
But think about it from the average Malawian view. Remember, Christopher our cook? He earned a VERY good wage of $4 per day. That's upper middle class standard if there was such a thing in this country. So let's equate that with a similiar Canadian wage of say $50-60,000 for a single person. Now for Christopher to buy a pair of basic single vision glasses, AND there is no such thing as benefits, assuming a small amount of wages withheld for taxes, it would take about 6 weeks of wages for him to pay for them. SO comparing to Canadian wages, those $250 glasses now cost you $5,560. For one pair of glasses. That is the gift we are giving each patient. And that is why it does not go unappreciated. They are truly grateful. Probably more so than most people who complain to me on a weekly basis in Canada about how expensive their glasses are while they hold phones that cost more. When you say that to an Optician or an Optometrist, basically you are saying that their time, skills and care aren't worth that much. No one here in Malawi feels that way even when the glasses are free.
Hank also said that he was glad that Silas had told the people that Bryan and I had paid our own expenses to come here. I had been a little embarrassed when this was mentioned but Hank said No, it was an important example to the Malawain people. They often help those that they know but to have an example of strangers coming at great expense to give so generously will inspire them to do the same. But it's not just Bryan and I who are the examples, it's Deborah and Lorne and Paul and Rachel and Frank and everyone who gave time, money and supplies to make this happen. I wish I had a revolving mosaic of faces and names to show as we do this work. So many people deserve credit.
I want to remember the gratitude of the people. Of Silas saying "They could have given these to anyone and they chose us. Let us Thank God for their kindness and generosity"
No expectation or entitlement....just grace and gratitude.

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