October 2018

This month’s Values Champion needs no introduction as he has been with Orbis for nearly 15 years and is the mainstay of the Ethiopia office. As we celebrate Orbis Ethiopia’s 20th Anniversary this month, we also celebrate their Country Director, Dr. Alemayehu Sisay, as our Values Champion.

When thinking about Alemayehu words like humble, unassuming and kind come to mind but make no mistake, he is a powerhouse skillfully guiding the success of our work in Ethiopia.

Alemayehu is incredibly proud of the achievements of the Ethiopia office over its 20 years. On a personal level he values the partnerships he has been able to foster with the Federal Ministry of Health and other partners to develop improved eye health services in his country.

He was part of the first Flying Eye Hospital program in Addis Ababa back in 2003. He explains, “It was, in fact, my first time on an airplane! I felt like I was in space until I saw the slit lamps and the other eye equipment and realized I was finally on the Flying Eye Hospital. It was incredible and thrilling!”

However the memory that touched him the deepest occurred 13 years ago when he was a clinical project manager in the Gamo Gofa. His team used to do cataract surgical camps in remote communities that otherwise would have no access to the services.

On such day he met a young man called Kimba in a rural clinic over 100km from Arbaminch; “I will always remember him, his face was down, never laughing, emotionless, I thought this young man had some psychiatric problem and I had to deal with him carefully. The young woman accompanying him, I assumed to be his wife, cried throughout the examination. The family thought this was a curse of God and bringing his light back was just like crying for the moon.”

“I keep silent until I completed my examination and diagnosed him with bi-lateral cataract, scheduling the surgery for the following morning. I recall the roar the rented generator we had to use to power the microscope, and how afraid he looked during the surgery.”

“The next morning I removed his eye patch slowly. He opened his eyes slowly and saw his wife straight away. I saw something was lifted off his face. He smiled and looked at his wife continuously. He saw her straight in her eyes. She became shy, smiled for a while and cried out bitterly. I was becoming emotional and told her that this is expected and normal. She came close to him and held and kissed his hand. And then, suddenly, they held each other, in tears.”

“The next day we operated on the other eye and his sight was fully restored. I was so happy to see the sight of this young man vision restored, knowing he could be the bread winner of his family! But I was even happier to see their joy, they were different people.”

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