EMI has been serving Tenwek Hospital with design and consultancy for over 10 years. This 300-bed mission hospital was founded in rural Kenya in 1937. The latest development on the hospital campus is the new Eye & Dental Center, completed earlier this year. Dr. Ben Roberts, the head ophthalmologist at Tenwek, shares how the vision for eye care has grown into this new space.


“The eye ministry here began in 1991 with community outreach eye clinics. Many patients needed surgery to improve their vision, so an ophthalmologist would be recruited for surgeries. They did 18 cataract surgeries that entire first year. As years progressed, the numbers of patients dramatically increased. 

“We quickly learned our current facilities were much smaller than what we needed. In 2009, we invited EMI to bring a design team. I remember those two weeks very clearly. It was exciting to hear them ask, 'If you could have anything you needed to do this ministry, tell us what that would look like.' At the end of those two weeks, EMI had a design for an eye center that was fairly close to what we built. With those plans, we applied for and were awarded USAID ASHA grants totaling to USD 1.8 million—in addition to other private donors and groups that contributed.

Tenwek is a teaching hospital and a member of PAACS. Dr. Roberts’ team are training Kenyan eye surgeons to multiply their reach. Ophthalmic Assistant, Mary Nganga (OCO) performs an eye exam on a patient (left) while Chibet Rotich, a trainee Clinical Officer, performs a large incision cataract surgery under the supervision of ophthalmologist Dr. Troy Newman. Photos: J. Chandler.

“Our eye department motto is, ‘Sharing the Light, Restoring Vision.’ We moved into the Eye & Dental Center in January 2018—just shy of four years since breaking ground. When I moved here in 2006, we were seeing about 8,000 patients and performing about 600 eye surgeries each year. For the past 12 years, we’ve been asking God to help us to provide excellent eye care for patients in this region. At the same time, we share the hope of Christ with clinical and surgery patients. It's been exciting for me to do that, working with our staff, nurses, and chaplains here at Tenwek. By 2016, we saw just over 20,000 patients in the eye clinic and performed almost 2,700 eye surgeries. This was more patients than we could effectively care for in the cramped old facility, but we didn't realize that until we moved into this new building. Now we realize what a gift it is.

70-year-old Esther Chelogoi was referred to Tenwek’s Eye & Dental Center from Narok, about 80 Km away. She said she did farm work in her village and used to rub her eye to clear away the cloudy vision, trying to polish it like glass. She is about to depart Tenwek after her post-op exam and her stay in the hospital ward. Cataract gone, she is happy to see clearly once again. Photo: J. Chandler.

“The new clinic is spacious and gives us exam stations not only for long-term consultants, but also for trainees and clinical officers. The operating theatre has been incredible—as a provider I believe that a cleaner more, spacious area means we can take better care of patients. The new building also has 65 in-patient beds in four wards and a couple of private rooms. And in the sub-basement we have four two-bedroom apartments for trainees who are working with us. It’s been a long journey since that first EMI design team came, but it's been worth it. The Center has been a tremendous blessing—for the providers and the patients.”