Young visionary helps hundreds of Kenyans to see again
A RECENT trip to Kenya helping to restore the eyesight of hundreds of locals has solidified one Ballina teen's aspirations to become a humanitarian.
Eighteen-year-old Ryan Webb's passion for helping others began when he was just 13, after volunteering with his father in Nepal at a Leper colony.
"We helped to renovate their worn-out dirty rooms," Mr Webb said.
"It was eye opening."
Leading up to the month-long trip with not-for-profit Ballina based Kenya Health, Mr Webb tirelessly sourced about 500 pairs of second-hand glasses from Specsavers and OPSM.
Mainly based in Nakuru, a small village a few hours from the capital Nairobi, the team ran 13 mobile clinic vans and helped provide medicine to about 2500 villagers.
But Mr Webb said his main role was optometry and helping villagers with poor eyesight to see and read again.
"We'd take prescriptions and hand out the glasses," he said.
"It was amazing to see their smiles and faces when they could finally read and see again … it is really special."
A standout memory for Mr Webb was being invited into a locals mud hut home where the villager generously gave him produce from his garden and familiarised him with how he lived.
"Giving me some of his crop was very generous, considering how poor they are," he said.
"I realised how lucky we are here … I couldn't believe how hard they have to work, but also their attitude and friendliness and how happy they are."
"It's a big privilege for me to be able to go over to help them … and be able to make some of their lives easier and less painful."
He said he hoped more young people would consider volunteering if they were in the position to help others.
"More humanitarian work is something I want to do long term in the future … I get a real buzz from the people and from being able to help them.
"You learn a lot of life skills and it helps you gain a different perspective on life and get out there in the community."
For the last three years, Mr Webb has worked at the Alstonville Retirement Village in the kitchen, which allows him to save for his humanitarian trips.