APPEAL FROM GARISSA

Quick Summary: A response that led to supporting an individual who had been provisionally diagnosed with glaucoma, along with their family.

In April 2016, we received an email from an inspired well-wisher in Kenya highlighting the plight of a poor individual who was going blind. The message did not ask for money; instead it only requested assistance in getting medical assistance to this individual who had been provisionally diagnosed as having glaucoma, while mentioning that there were six children dependant on him. That prompted the circulation of an appeal on our part. 

 

In less than a week of that appeal, a medical student from Plymouth University stepped forward to coordinate an effort dedicated to helping the poor individual as well as the dependant family. It soon developed into a story which demonstrated the power of human kindness in overcoming seemingly insurmountable barriers of social division and acrimony.

Maureen Wanderi, the medical student was just finishing the second year of studies. Though she is of Kenyan origin, her entire network was based in Nairobi, about five and a half hours away from where the needy family was living, in Garissa, an area with a strong Al Shabaab presence. In fact it was only in April 2015 when Al Shabaab massacred 148 innocents at the Garissa University College. It did not take us long to realise that it would be exceedingly difficult to find a suitable source of medical assistance in Garissa, or one that was willing to undertake that perilous journey. This was exactly why, Anwar Shariff, the unsung hero who raised the plight of the family in the first instance, had sought external help.

These obstacles did not stifle the positive energies of Anwar or Maureen. Instead they worked hard as a team, though separated by thousands of miles. Maureen’s wonderful family members who were based in Nairobi, joined in with true philanthropic spirit by galvanising a church group to generate funds, and things simply began to happen with a palpable sense of urgency.

Anwar not only managed to arrange transport for the person to travel to Nairobi, but also accommodated him in the family home while he underwent a series of tests, which were paid for by those funds raised. The church group committed themselves to expand the initiative by actively pursuing means of providing long-term educational support to the family members. Both parties seemed totally oblivious to the fact that they were reaching out across the ethnic divide that was ravaging through some parts of the very community they represented.

Though all this was so wonderful, the final results of the tests were mixed, to put it lightly. They concluded that the person was not suffering from glaucoma. That should have been a relief, as in many instances glaucoma causes irreversible blindness. Yet, they identified a 6cm mass intracranial mass that could probably be either a (1) germ cell tumour or an (2) atypical meningioma. However, the mass was described as having “benign radiological features [and] total excision with clear margins is possible”. We then shifted our focus to generating funds to seek a neuro-surgical opinion on how to proceed.

What happened next demonstrated the sheer unpredictability of the human condition. Maureen had in fact travelled to Kenya for the summer vacation, intending to expedite our efforts when, right at the end of August 2016, we received a message from Anwar that the individual had succumbed to his illness.

 

This should not mark the end of our efforts to respond to Anwar’s appeal. The family of six are in still in need of help, perhaps even more so than before. We remain committed to helping them. Would you be in a position to join us? Please write to us through this website or on poornagunsi@yahoo.com. We will do everything to facilitate direct communication between the beneficiaries and potential benefactors. This, as everything we do, will come absolutely free of charge.

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