Rotary restores normal vision to Kenyan boy A 13-year-old Moses Mwaura who had an eye defect rectified in Minnesota seven years ago becomes the toast of a Rotary meeting which recalls his earlier visit.

After coming to the US as a young boy to have his eyes uncrossed, 13-year-old Moses Mwaura returned to the Twin Cities in December for a check-up that doubled as a triumphant reunion.

“While Moses was here, he made lots of friends,” said Tim Murphy, who helped bring the Kenyan boy stateside as part of the Edina Rotary Club’s (Minnesota, D 5950) efforts seven years ago.

Moses was reunited with his benefactors during the club’s Dec 7 meeting.

Aside from getting his eyes checked and receiving new glasses, he spent his return trip having fun and touring the area while making clear he’s the same energetic boy who visited seven years ago.

Edina Rotarian Sandy Schley interviews Moses Mwaura in front of Rotary Club members at the group’s Dec 7 meeting. Touched by her initial encounter with the now-13-year-old, Schley helped initiate the club’s project to fix Moses’ eyes. Photo: Andrew Wig/Sun Current
Edina Rotarian Sandy Schley interviews Moses Mwaura in front of Rotary Club members at the group’s Dec 7 meeting. Touched by her initial encounter with the now-13-year-old, Schley helped initiate the club’s project to fix Moses’ eyes. Photo: Andrew Wig/Sun Current

Presenting his story, Edina Rotarian Sandy Schley reminded Moses of his eagerness to meet as many people as possible on his initial stay.

“Everywhere you would go, even out on the playground, Moses, you would run around and shake hands and tell everyone, ‘I’m Moses Mwaura, I’m Moses Mwaura,’ and people began to ask if you were running for political office,” Schley joked.

The networking opportunity came as a result of the Rotary Club’s water sanitation efforts in Africa.

The Rotarians were looking for a project in Kenya’s Mathare Valley, where half a million squatters live in the slums outside Nairobi.

Schley and Murphy were visiting a youth centre founded by David Waithaka, who had stayed with Edina Rotary members 20 years ago as he studied business at the University of Minnesota.

Standing outside the youth centre, Schley had an encounter she couldn’t get out of her head.

“I saw a little fellow over in the corner standing, and this young boy had a distinct feature,” she recalled.

“When he looked at me with one eye, the other one turned white, and vice versa.”

She took his picture, and in that short time,“we developed a friendship,” Schley continued.

But she knew she had to leave. “I walked to my van and looked back. This young boy, I didn’t know his name, looked at me. We drove away, and he faded in the distance. I could not forget the encounter,” she said.

So Schley travelled home, along with that picture of Moses, who, she said, “became the face of our water project.”

The Rotary club returned to the Methare Valley a year later, Schley’s initial encounter with Moses still resonating.

A second encounter re-affirmed Moses’s symbolic connection to the club’s efforts in the valley.

Back home again at a Rotary meeting, as Murphy told the group about Moses, Schley sat at a table next to her ophthalmologist, Charlie Barer. He suggested they do something about Moses’ eyes.

“And the tears ran down my eyes,” Schley said.

“When I walked up to the table, Sandy was in shambles, literally,” Murphy recalled.

“She had a hard time composing her words because of Charlie’s comments. She looked at me and said, ‘Tim, we need to get Moses here.’”

So, it was decided. To find the boy, the club got in touch with Waithaka, who is Moses’ uncle.

Barer tapped Jafar Hassan, a pediatric ophthalmologist in Edina, to perform the surgery.

Further, Eden Prairie dentist Angela Wandera, also a native of Kenya, worked on Moses’ teeth.

A team effort

In the end, all the medical work was performed by in-kind donations – not a dollar was raised for the project, according to Murphy.

“Eleven people in Edina Rotary had personal, vested interest in this to make it happen,” he explained.

That included legal wrangling, procuring plane tickets and issuing Moses a birth certificate so he could obtain a passport and visa.

Aside from the chance to reunite with his Minnesota friends, Moses’ return trip was positive from a medical perspective, too.

In particular, his new glasses will help control his eyes, Hassan explained.

The initial procedure to correct the condition, technically known as esotropia, was routine for Hassan, but Moses’ eyes were worse than most cases he sees.

“I do lot of these kinds of surgeries,” he said. “His was pretty severe though.”

Those eyes are coming in handy as Moses studies at a private school in Kenya thanks to a donation from Rotary Club member Paul Mooty.

Moses told the Rotarians he also plays trumpet, drums and keyboard, and enjoys soccer and hockey.

“He was here once. He got it in his blood,” Murphy said.

Moses’ vibrant childhood is enough for Schley to declare success.

“Tim (Murphy) and I talk often,” she said, “and I’ll say, ‘You know, Tim, this is a modern day miracle.’”

Source: Sun Current

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