When Btv news on Monday described the wonderful initiative taken by the Lions Service Club to help the visually impaired in Maun it was natural for me to marvel at the way the country has progressed.
Go back to the beginning and the arrival in Mochudi in 1964/5 of Mr PCG Adams of the Royal Commonwealth for the Blind. I am not at sure why Adams picked on Mochudi as his base but from there he travelled far and wide to assess the extent of need, and its nature.
Inevitably, he also inter-acted closely with Dr Gunther Teichler, then Superintendent of the DR Hospital. The result was that the Royal Society was able to use the information about the country’s situation described in Adams’ report to get Teichler to London to do a one-year course in ophthalmology. I wish I knew more about that arrangement because it shows yet again how a small non-government initiative can have such a far-reaching outcome.
In theory, it might have been expected that Teichler’s absence in London would have presented the hospital with serious problems. In the event, none occurred because Teichler’s son, Christof, himself a qualified doctor, seamlessly took over the role of Superintendent with daughter, Barbara becoming acting matron. Remarkable days and a remarkable family. With his ophthalmology course under his belt, Teichler returned to his hospital in Mochudi and immediately began to do cataract operations.
Within a short time this practice had so increased that, with German aid assistance, not least from the Christofel Blinden Mission, he launched that most remarkable initiative, the Leseding Eye Clinic as an adjunct of the hospital. There then followed two further initiatives - the Mochudi Resource Centre for the Blind and then, Pudulogong.
NGO initiatives tend to have a limited shelf life but in the years before the government took over the hospital in 2002, people from all parts of the country trekked to Mochudi for help like a medieval pilgrimage in Europe, and successive doctors, Obie Jackson and Brian Savage did wonders for those with eye problems.
I have no idea why the government had so little interest in Leseding but after it had taken over the hospital, its role was so reduced that it does little more now than providing people with eye tests. How strange it is to recall what a remarkable place was Mochudi in those years.
The Teichler baton was not however set aside. Both Pudulogong and the Resource Centre have struggled on, the latter being wonderfully supported by the Rotary Club in Gaborone. And in Gaborone I have seen for myself how the Chinese doctors, at Princess Marina have, in the past, dealt with busloads of people coming for cataract operations. Teichler is now long gone but he would be hugely cheered to note how his early initiative has been followed up by so many others.