During the first two weeks of July, SEE held a special expedition with NBA Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo and the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation, aimed at improving access to vision care in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). During this initial sight-restoring program, SEE provided 107 sight-restoring surgeries to blind patients in the DRC, which is one of the poorest countries in the world.
SEE’s surgical efforts were led by Dr. Helena Ndume of Windhoek, Namibia, and Dr. Scott Hickman of Lawrence, Kansas, USA. Dr. Ndume is the winner of the 2015 U.N. Nelson Mandela Prize for her humanitarian efforts. In addition, SEE’s volunteer surgeons laid the groundwork for future expeditions and training, so that local eye doctors can provide ongoing care in the region year round. As this the first ever eye surgery program at the Mutombo Hospital, there were a variety of challenges the team faced, but everyone pulled together and truly made this program a success.
Mr. Mutombo, who was born and raised in the DRC, has garnered widespread acclaim in his post-NBA career as a philanthropist. He is widely hailed as a true “son of Africa” and a champion for the people of the DRC. In 2007 he opened the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital, which was the first new health facility in the Kinshasa area in over 40 years.
When asked for an explanation of why he has given so much money, time, and effort to helping disadvantaged people worldwide, Mr. Mutombo’s answer is simple: “In Central Africa there is an old proverb: ‘When you take the elevator up to reach the top, please don’t forget to send the elevator back down, so that someone else can take it to the top.’ This is my way of sending the elevator down.”
Apart from the SEE International team, there were high-profile figures from every walk of life, in addition to Dikembe Mutombo, there was actor Patrick Warburton, and Cindy McCain, wife of U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). We also worked alongside the Starkey Foundation, which focuses on treating hearing impairments.