However, suffering from vision loss will greatly complicate an already difficult life. The traditional Swazi belief is that blindness is a curse, and that the affected are being punished for their sins. Some community members may be uncooperative, avoiding contact with the entire family. This was the reality for Sifiso, a resident of Siteki, and is a very bumpy 30 minute drive from the Good Shepherd Hospital. But only a few days ago, Sifiso's has begun a career as his area's local candle-maker!
Sifiso's mother has been bringing in her two sons to see Dr. Pons since the early days of the eye clinic. Sadly, Both he and his brother Beggi have had vision loss since birth, and despite the clinic's best efforts, suffers from severe visual impairment (less than 5/60 visual acuity). When Sifiso was a young boy, he started school at St. Joseph's school for the disabled, a 100 year old Christian mission. Under the supervision of Sister Stephani, these students take classes including math, Braille and English. In addition, they also learn practical skills such as candle-making and fence-wiring. Sifiso became very competent at making candles, which is the most common source of light in his community.
Once he graduated from school last year, Sifiso has been struggling find work from home, where employment opportunities are already very limited. When he visited us for a check-up this year, he has been struggling to keep busy and help maintain his household. Yet, if he had a source of income, he will be able to contribute greatly to his family. This is why the Good Shepherd Eye Clinic decided to buy a candle making press for the young man, a life changing purchase far beyond Sifiso's reach.
With the help of Sister Stephani, we have been able to hire the same engineers to manufacture a press similar to the one that Sifiso had learnt to make candles at St. Josephs. The process to create the simple white candles involve simple tools with the solid steel press, so Sifiso will be able to make an income from his production for years to come. After the initial gift of 10 kg of wax, Sifiso can use his profits to purchase more supplies and sustain his production.
It will be a very challenging time for Sifiso; starting off as a young entrepreneur is a daunting task in any country. In addition to the new income that he will bring to his mother and brother, Sifiso role in his rural community will dramatically change. With a practical and essential skill that he can provide for his neighbours, the acceptance of his and his younger brother's disability comes hand in hand. We are glad to play a role in this family's life, and we pray that Sifiso's new enterprise will be a shining light in his community!