A nurse in Kenya: CBM Supporter Helen Brown’s story

Stories | June 15, 2022

Losing a child and surviving a charging elephant attack in Kenya never derailed CBM Supporter and former nurse Helen Brown’s African cause. This is her story. 

When on medical safari 50 years ago, CBM Supporter Helen Brown vividly recalls a horrifying adventure where an enraged bull elephant confronted her. “It was hopping mad [and] charged the jeep,” she says.

The beast was so close she could touch him, but Helen believed God kept her safe that day. 

Helen grew up on a farm in Queensland, with a Methodist background. Her faith was strengthened by reading scripture and stories of jungle doctors, which planted the desire for her to become a missionary nurse.

When Helen first arrived in Kenya, she was impressed by an elegant dining room filled with many African men willing to help. Fiercely independent, though, Helen forged on solo. 

One day she walked up a slope, her baby strapped to her back in the African manner, when she toppled over and broke her ankle. It was then that she needed assistance. “God was knocking some sense into my head,” she recalls.    

Helen would journey through the desert to settlements dispensing eye ointment from the tailgate of her jeep. Her children enjoyed the trips, too. “It worked really well,” she admits about the work-life balance. 

At one point, her son experienced a lazy eye, so they travelled to Nairobi for a consultation, however, the specialist was unwell, and there was no option but to return.

As it happened, during poor weather, a plane was redirected to their airstrip. As a result, four ophthalmologists with diverse backgrounds from Christian Blind Mission International emerged. Helen was quick to invite their assessment of her son’s condition and was gratified to receive not one but four professional opinions.

During her missionary work, Helen experienced a mother’s worst nightmare. She lost a child. With God’s grace, such a trauma at least allowed her to empathise with the experience of those in Africa, where the loss of children was sadly a common occurrence.

“I’ve been able to assist and comfort other people [with lived experience and empathy] who have had tragedy in their lives,” she explains.

Throughout the years, Helen has lived with a strong and abiding faith that has filled her with compassion towards those assisted by CBM who are most disadvantaged. She fondly remembers the efforts of those CBM eye specialists from 50 years ago and reminds us that CBM, under its various names, has maintained a long tradition of saving sight.

She feels blessed too that she and her children were not injured by the enormous mass of a charging elephant and were instead allowed to continue with their life’s work.

Thanks, Helen, for all of your help with CBM. Thank you for your eternal faith.

Story by Graeme Turner, CBM Contact Centre.

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