“I witnessed the Ethiopian and Italian war,” he tells us, smiling. Whether it’s true or not, we can’t be sure. “There were traitor Ethiopians who stood with the Italians. I used to tease them, when I saw them after the war. ‘Hey – give me candy or I’ll make fun of you’, I would say. And they would give me candy.”
It was a sort of child’s way of blackmailing for candy. To get lollipops.
“Whenever I would see candy – I would run and get it,” he says. He also remembers a time when life wasn’t as expensive as it is now.
“I used to buy eggs for 50 cents. People used to say, ‘That’s so expensive… we would never pay that.’ I remember when you could buy a sheep for l Birr.
And then you used to sell the skin of the sheep for l Birr and 50 cents. We used to buy 1 7 kg of pure, distilled, organic forest honey for 6 Birr.”
“The past isn’t even something you can compare today. Life is expensive now.”
Food prices aren’t the biggest concern that Wendwosen has faced in the past years. Today, his biggest concern is his eye sight. For the past few years, he’s been slowly going blind. For the last 3 months, he hasn’t been able to see anything at all.
The problem started years ago. “One eye has had continuous tears for the last five years,” Wendwosen says. “It has not been able to see and causes me pain.”
How life has been without being able to see.
“I cannot pick up any sticks since I was blind. I can’t distinguish what I’m drinking.” He says, ” I cannot protect my property. I cannot protect myself from any external harm. I have cattle. I have sheep and goats . It is very difficult for me to continue my life. Once, I even thought of ending my life.”
“I have cattle, sheep, goats, and various properties. When the neighbourhood children came to me – and told me that my cattle are eating the grass, eating my harvest – I would listen to that and cry. There was nothing I could do.”
“It was then that I thought about taking my life. I was useless to myself. I was useless to others . I couldn’t protect myself or my livelihood, nor anything that I have. There’s a saying … when someone can’t protect himself, he can’t protect others.”
Blindness did more than make Wendwosen feel useless. It also separated him from the people he loved – and the events of his life that were important to him.
“I became alienated. If anyone of my family or friends passed away – I couldn’t go to their burial. I stayed at home. I cried. I alienated myself from the rest of the community – because I had no way to perform my function in the community.”
“I am married and have 7 children. 5 of my children are with me. The others are not.”
All of Wendwosen’s children are students – all of them still in school. The youngest is 18. The oldest is 21. Their studies keep them busy. Too busy to help their father care for his livestock. He didn’t want them to stop school to care for him. He values their education – their futures – more than he values himself .
And so Wendwosen came to Hope and Healing International’s partner eye hospital, St.Francis. Hoping to have his sight restored.
We meet Wendwosen the day after his surgery. He’s waiting in line for the bandage to be removed. Waiting to see again … As the nurse peels back the tape, a smile breaks across his face. He can see!
Bassie (Hope and Healing International’s project officer) asked him whether he thought Bassie was tall or short. He said, ‘You’re sho-o-o-ort …’ He also said, “Your teeth are the most beautiful.”
Wendwosen starts telling us all the things he will do now that he can see again:
“I miss my place. I miss my village . I want to see the village where I am living. I will check the calves that are new born. I want to see the new sheep and goats and the like. I want to see the harvest we have been able to collect. I want to know what kind of things the community has done. I want to visit my neighbours.”
“I’m born again! ” He says, “This is my life. This is a new life for me. I will go to the people who have passed away when I was blind. I will take a horse – I will go there . But I will not cry. Because I do not want to lose my eye sight again.”
“I am so happy. I am extremely exc ited. I can’t wait to go back home and see all the changes that have happened.”