Recently, Megan Webber, one of the Co-Founders at KTG, had the privilege of meeting with Josh Ghrist, the Mission Director of Lighthouse for Christ, and Dr. Frederick Korir, a dedicated Ophthalmologist and Cornea Surgeon who also serves as the Medical Director for Lighthouse for Christ. It was an absolutely wonderful encounter!
We were truly inspired as we learned about the remarkable legacy of the Ghrist Family and the extraordinary work they have undertaken in the region. The story began with Josh’s grandfather, Dr. Bill Ghrist, and his wife, June, who were driven by a profound calling to establish a mission in Africa. Their journey took them from Nairobi to Mombasa, where the foundation of Lighthouse for Christ was laid. Today, Lighthouse for Christ operates three satellite clinics in Mombasa and boasts a dedicated team of 56 members, tirelessly serving over 40,000 patients annually!
As the program expanded, so did its mission. Remarkably, three generations of the Ghrist family are now actively involved in Lighthouse for Christ, and Dr. Korir has been an integral part of the team for over a decade. We were deeply moved by their commitment to addressing the challenges of pediatric vision care in the region, as they actively identify and refer patients to Dr. Kahakii Kimani at Kenyatta Medical Hospital. Their efforts are particularly critical for the retinoblastoma patients they see each year who often present at an advanced stage, necessitating enucleation and immediate referrals. Dr. Korir also dedicates himself to treating patients with pediatric cataracts, another condition characterized by a telltale white glow.
While Lighthouse for Christ Hospital provides ultrasound scanning to confirm suspected retinoblastoma cases and can grade and refer them, it’s essential to note that the journey from Mombasa to Nairobi for treatment is an arduous eight-hour drive.
Rose Atsyiaya, the passionately dedicated Nurse Practitioner at Lighthouse for Christ, is an incredible advocate for RB (retinoblastoma) families. She frequently arranges transportation and follow-up care, recognizing the immense need within the 4-million-strong population they serve. It’s unfortunate that there is no local ocularist to provide prosthetic eyes; thus, Lighthouse for Christ directs families to local resources which create silicone molds that can be custom fit, albeit without formal prosthetics.
Post-enucleation, chemotherapy is now an option through the local hospital. However, financial constraints often burden families. Here, Lighthouse for Christ steps in as a refuge for patient families grappling with the financial obligations of treatment for blinding conditions. Moreover, they often encounter patients with Coats Disease and ROP (Retinopathy of Prematurity), both initially manifesting with leukocoria. They take pride in being a resource that not only recognizes but actively seeks out children at risk of these conditions. With the support of COECSA, their programs have expanded to include a registry of children with retinoblastoma, facilitating ongoing care after chemotherapy and other treatments.
Tragically, many children in Kenya still succumb to retinoblastoma and orbital diseases, but there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Through their proactive outreach, Lighthouse for Christ conducts pediatric clinics twice weekly and offers regular school screenings. They have cultivated partnerships with local companies to aid in these screening efforts. Additionally, they have two major outreach initiatives both near and far. One is aimed at establishing an Eye Camp for patient screenings nearby and the other, requiring a week drive in advance of screening, is known as the Long Eye Camp. To ensure smooth running of these efforts, they’ve incorporated modern tools like WhatsApp and posters alongside their traditional methods of announcements on motorcycles with megaphones, local radio broadcasts, and church services. KTG hopes to aid in the messaging to the communities announcing their arrival and sharing information with village parents and school families.
Once children are identified in screenings, there are still hurdles to be faced. Notably, local anesthesia isn’t available, necessitating the transport and accommodation of families in Mombasa. Lighthouse for Christ generously covers the expenses for families unable to meet these costs. The ECFA provides oversight and their financial support primarily comes from their Lighthouse for Christ US contingency, enabling the team in Mombasa to perform over 100 pediatric surgeries annually and provide ongoing follow-up care.
KnowTheGlow is delighted to learn that the registry of families and the network of churches, schools, and clinics creates a well-linked caring community to surround and support these families. We look forward to collaborating with Lighthouse for Christ on ways to support their outreach efforts with KTG’s digital images and we are proud to shine a spotlight on their remarkable achievements thus far! With resources like Lighthouse for Christ there is great hope for the future!