Frequently Asked Questions


Q: Out of all the places in the world, why did you choose Congo?

A: - The need for eye care in the whole country has been desperate for years.  Can you imagine how horrendous it will be if you have an eye problem, there is simply nowhere for you to go for help in the whole country? 

- When Henri spent four days there in April 2010, he was completely overwhelmed by desperate patients, many of whom waited for months, even years, and travelled for days to see him.  We are expecting thousands of patients

- Some people ask us why we do not go to China.  There are some amazing and dedicated eye health professionals who go regularly to China on projects such as 'Lifeline Express' to help.  We have found that many charities are more willing to go to English-speaking Africa such as South Africa, Uganda and Kenya, and in general people are more reluctant to go to French-speaking Africa.  In fact, the Republic of Congo has never ever had an eye centre with surgery in the whole country! 

- This area is even more remote and the challenges are even more demanding than the rainforest we lived in in Gabon!  YET we wake up every morning with a passion to go.  It is as if we can physically hear the people there calling out asking us to go



Q: How many people do you anticipate to help in Congo?

 A: - When Henri went to 'scout out' the land for 5  days, i.e. not to 'work', he saw 5 patients on the first day, 12 on the second, 30 on the third, 60 on the fourth.  This was without any media. advertising, facebook or twitter.  Patients and their families just rushed in.  We anticipate a huge demand when we arrive.  So the more money and resources we raise, the more staff we can train and have, the more patients and families we can help.  We anticipate about 500 operations and 750 consultations in the first year, but this should increase as we train more staff and recover our set up cost.



Q: What is the standard of living like out there?

A: -        

Electricity: The region gets electricity twice a week for 3 hours at a time.  We want to set up solar panels with generators otherwise we will probably just burn out and come home within a few months.  Still we will have to be most conservative with our electricity use

Water: Rain collection tanks on top of the roof

Shops: The missionaries sent us an Excel sheet of what is available in the shops most of the time.  The fact that they can actually list everything that you can buy e.g. bowls not plates, says it all!

Communication: Mobile phones (often OK), Internet system (available in the hospital but system has been down for the past 6 months. It was fixed but broke down again after 2 days)

Transport links: Either by twice weekly planes (unreliable) or snail-paced ferries

Travel: We will buy a bicycle with a cart in front to toll our 3 kids!

In a nutshell: It sure ain’t gonna be easy!  But the world is changing all the time.  Our prayer will be that it will change quickly in Impfondo! =)



Q: Is it safe there?

A: The main safety issue relates to the violence that broke out in Dongo, Democratic Repblic of Congo (the other bigger Congo that is often on the news), just across the river from Impfondo.  Since October 2009, over 100 000 refugees escaped to Impfondo across the river.  As you can imagine, the physical and emotional needs of these refugees, many of whom are orphans, are immense.  It is unlikely that the rebels will cross the international borders.  Of course, there are also the spiders, snakes, driver ants, termites, rabid cockroaches... 



Q: Are you crazy?  Why would you want to go to a place like that with 3 young children and no salary?

A: -         Yes, we are crazy.  However, it is crazier if having seen the need, we do not try to do something about it when we know that we can make a difference



Q: It is very good and noble of you, isn't it?

A: -         Yes, we believe that it is a great thing that we are doing.  At the same time, we sincerely consider it a greater thing to be able to witness patients literally set free from darkness!  They come into the clinic relying on their families who look on helplessly, and they walk away full of joy and hope - independently - into a new and drastically improved life!  This is the definition of a privilege!   Another privilege is that every time someone helps us by supporting us financially, we feel so incredibly humbled.  It is such a tremendous honour to have others believe in us and our work. To us it is a very natural thing to do - if you see an old lady fall as she is crossing the road, you would naturally go help her up if you could. 



Q: When will you go?

A:  -       Pending on financial support, we hope to leave the UK in March 2012.  We need to wait for our youngest daugther to be 18 months old so that she can complete her hepatitis B vaccination cause.  It is too dangerous to go out there without the immunisation as we will be living in the hospital. 



Q: How long will you stay there?

A: -         We will stay as long as it takes for the eye centre to become self-sufficient project.  We anticipate that it will take at least a good few years to fully establish.  Henri will also need time to train somebody else to pass on the skills.  When the time comes for us to hand over the centre to the local community, we can easily envision ourselves pioneer another similar project in another part of the developing world.  So no this is not just a 'gap year' kind of thing.  Our hope is to dedicate our whole lives to serve Africa. 


Q: What is your background?

A: -         We previously served as medical missionaries in a hospital in Gabon, Africa and are currently in the UK.  When we were in Gabon, Henri, through his training as a senior ophthalmic technician with surgical skills, developed a non-profit eye clinic that literally saw thousands of people see again.  Joyce was the administrative arm of the eye project whilst she also served as a family doctor with teaching role in the hospital.  We are both fluent in French, the official language in Congo.  We are learning Lingala, the most popular dialect in Congo. 



Q: How are you going to fund the project?  And what are you going to live on? 

A: -  We have applied to over 40 charities and organisations for funding as well as resources e.g. medical equipment, medicine., So far they have all encouraged us as they know the desperate need in Congo and they are aware of our previous success in Gabon.  However they regret not to be able to help us as they are unable to start any new projects given the current economic recession.  We are also seeking individuals and groups to support us, through fundraising activities, word of mouth, one-off giving as well as regular giving.   We have formulated a personal budget based on the essential living costs that the current team in Pioneer Hospital incur at present.  We ourselves will not receive a salary per se.   


Q: So, how much money do you need?

A:  -        We need to raise… (clear the throat… cough cough)… a lot of money!  

We need about £100 000 or (1.25-1.5 million HK dollars) in our first year / first phase of our journey.  Beyond that, we will need ongoing costs as well as our second phase, which would be to esblish our own buildings for surgical theatres, ward and clinic.  When we first arrive we will be 'borrowing' from the general surgical wards, as there is currently no general surgeon there.  However, should an emergency case come in such as appendicitis or Caesarian section, then we will have to vacate the operating theatre immediately.  This obviously is not a long term solution.  Our phase 3 will be to establish outreach teams / centres to 'find' or screen for blind and visually impaired people who may not even be aware of the fact that they can see again.  We will also need to train out staff.  So we really are looking at 7-8 million HKD over the next 5 years.  Moreover,  if we are able to raise more money, we can expand our services and lower the costs per operation, ultimately benefitting the patients.   We have had some new developments recently and will be re-publishing our detailed budget shortly.  In the mean time, please contact us to discuss this further if you would like to do so. Thank you.


Q: There are so many other good causes to support?  Why should I support your project?

A: Yes, there are many other good causes to support.  Ours is among the many great opportunity for people to really make a difference in the world.  In particular, it has very clear goals, very straight forward solutions and very measurable, obvious, cost effective and totally life-transforming results - not just for the blind person, but also for his family and the wider community.   Compared to the larger charities, we offer the benefit of essentially all the funds raised to go directly into the project, rather than the inevitablly significant proportion that goes into administration. 



Q: If I donate, how much money will go into administration?

A: -    Compared to most big charitable organisations, our administrative and fundraising costs are minimal.   For example, for every pound that you give to UNICEF, 24p goes into their administrative and fundraising costs. For every pound that you give to our project, pretty much all of it goes directly into the work to help the people in Congo.



Q: What is the salary for Joyce and Henri from New sight?

 A: -    The Samoutous currently do not receive a salary from New Sight.  They are not from rich families nor do they have much savings.  They rely on individual supporters.  They have an individual account to support their family that is separate from New Sight. 



Q: What part does your Christian faith play in your work?

  A: -    We welcome and treat all patients and families who come, regardless of race and religion.  All the finances raised from New Sight go directly into medical work.  The Samoutous are Christians.  Their faith in God is the motivation behind everything that they do.  Outside of New Sight, they carry out Christian activities such as church planting.  They do not have any salary at all from New Sight and have a separate account to fund their own family's daily needs and Christian ministry.  For more information, please contact us through the contact us section on the website.




Q: How can people support your work financially?

A: Please see the section 'How you can help'



Q: Apart from money, what else can people do to help?

A: Where do we start?  Firstly, you can pray.  We believe in the power of prayers.  Secondly, please keep your eyes and ears open to how you or someone you know may be able to help or advice on anything that you think may be useful.  Here are some examples:

- Shipping / Freight / Air travels

- Solar panels / Generators

- Water filters

- Anything related to eye clinic – Medicine, Eye and surgical equipment, Fabrics (Staff and patients), Furniture (Ward, Clinic, Operating theatre)

- Internet / Communication

- Home education for our children

- Gardening! (We will need to grow our own fruit and veg.  The diet is very limited and one missionary’s hair would fall out unless she takes her vitamins)

- Bicycles with a cart in front for our children.  This will be our main mode of transport

- Spread the word!  How about doing something fun for fundraising?  Would your church or interest group be interested in supporting us?  Do you know any businesses who would like to invest in charities like us?  For mor information, please see the 'Needs' section under  'How you can help'

- We believe that this is a great project as the goals are clear, the actions are straightforward, and the results are very measurable, obvious and cost-effective.  It is a simple project with lasting results where donations will not be wasted on administration, but will be directly invested to completely transform the lives of those in desperate need

- It can get pretty isolated out there. Please write to us and better still, visit us when we are out there!