Glenys Sigley is CBM’s Eternal Giving Club Ambassador. The Club is part of our very important Gift in Will program. Many supporters choose to leave a legacy gift to our programs, which aim to end the cycle of poverty and disability in the poorest places on earth.
It was back in 2004 that Glenys Sigley and her late husband, television personality Ernie Sigley, became CBM Ambassadors. But that was just the public-fronting side of their relationship with CBM – they had been faithful supporters long before that.
“In the ‘90s, my mother had macular degeneration and I was looking at organisations that helped people with eye conditions,” Glenys remembers. “A friend of mine, who I did Bible Studies with, worked at CBM and suggested I look at the work they did, their programs and their mission. I was so impressed with what I read about the work of CBM, partnering with the poor and particularly those with disabilities, that I became a supporter.”
CBM has evolved over the years, partnering more strongly with Organisations of People with Disabilities (OPDs) to design and implement sustainable, community-based programs, and concentrate on system strengthening and inclusive health in developing countries.
“I loved the work and I loved the values of CBM, and that’s always stayed the same.”
After a few years of supporting CBM, Glenys’s friend approached her about becoming an ambassador for a new Gift in Will club, the Eternal Giving Club.
“I had to talk Ernie into it,” Glenys says with a wide grin and a sparkle in her eye.
Over the years Glenys and Ernie have seen many of CBM’s programs. In Southeast Asia, Glenys was fortunate to visit an inclusive eye-health program where she met a four-year-old girl, Minh Meh, who had cataracts in both eyes.
“I vividly remember when we first met Minh Meh, her sad little face.”
Glenys and Ernie went with Minh Meh to her first surgery to remove the cataract from one of her eyes.
“Ernie nearly fainted,” she remembers, that trademark grin returning. “I was fine. I just couldn’t believe how quick it was, just 12 minutes.”
A day later, when Minh Meh’s patch was removed, Glenys and Ernie saw a change in that beautiful sad face.
“She could see more clearly, it was truly a Miracle,” Glenys says.
Three years later, Glenys and Ernie returned to see Minh Meh. The girl’s family had moved to another village, with 3,000 people. There was one toilet for the whole village. The houses were on stilts and, as it was so hot, the animals lived underneath. By then, Minh Meh had received her second surgery to remove the cataract from her other eye.
“It was so fantastic to meet this little girl again,” Glenys says. “It was very emotional to see how her life had changed from a sad little girl into a vibrant child, running, laughing and playing; all thanks to the work of CBM and their partner hospital.
“Her family were so grateful and her mother could not stop saying thank you to me for the change in her daughter. It was such a wonderful experience for us to see the difference in her and know that she had a better future ahead.”
Glenys also had the opportunity to visit other CBM-funded, disability-inclusive programs, including those that deliver prosthetics, enable children to go to school, and those that treat club foot, hare lip and cleft palate, as well as a school for the hearing impaired.
“These programs transform lives … it is not just one child or adult’s life, CBM transforms the lives of families and whole communities.”
A particularly strong memory for Glenys was when she visited a small, very remote African community. There she was to meet Pillay, who had given birth to twins. Glenys herself had twins and was really looking forward to meeting her.
When Glenys had some trouble before the birth, she was able to spend time in hospital getting expert care. When Pillay had trouble giving birth, she went to two local birthing centres, but they couldn’t help and said her only option was a five-hour train journey to the big hospital in the city. By the time she arrived the first baby had died and then the second soon after.
Added to the loss, Pillay had undiagnosed fistula. She leaked uncontrollably. Her husband left her, and for 14 years she sat in a small room all day, too embarrassed to leave. Her only support was to make small items that her relatives took to the market to sell. Finally, a relative told her about fistula surgery and through CBM partners she was able to access the surgery and heal.
“When I think about what she went through – the grief, the loss, the embarrassment, the pain and the fear – it really breaks my heart.
“If I’d been born in a poor country, her story could’ve been my story,” says Glenys.
“It still makes me sad when I think people have to live like that.”
The compassion and support of generous CBM supporters like Glenys and Ernie Sigley has already helped millions of people with disabilities in developing countries receive the vital support they need.