Penny LeGate Update: Back to Africa

Posted: March 9, 2012 in journalism

This post was written before the tragic death this week of Marah Williams (Penny LeGate’s 19 year-old daughter). At a celebration of Marah’s life Saturday afternoon, Penny remembered Marah as a “shooting star”. Penny’s words were eloquent and remarkable. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to Penny, Mike and Marah’s sister, Molly. A memorial scholarship will soon be set up in Marah Williams’ name. More details to come.

I remember the warm smile that spread across Penny’s face when she talked about how special it was that Marah could share in her recent trip to Ethiopia. At that moment it wasn’t a repurposed journalist advocating for the poor as much as it was a grateful mom just sharing her heart. Penny LeGate has a 1000 watt smile. I suspect a lot of that power she shared with Marah.

So here is that post. Read it again. Think of our good friend, Penny and how she must be hurting. Now consider how you can come alongside her when she may need you the most…

Penny LeGate gets excited just thinking about the moment when the bandages come off.

The Seattle TV journalist is leaving today for a month-long trip to Ethiopia, following Pasco, Washington ophthalmologist Dr. Jim Guzek and his effort to restore sight to cataracts patients living in extreme poverty. LeGate says Dr Guzek will be the only surgeon on-site with a small support staff in the remote area of Dembi Dolo in western Ethiopia near the Sudan border. LeGate will also be visiting Ethiopia’s Omo River Valley.

The 57-year old re-purposed journalist will be in Africa for a month gathering video of people whose lives she says are “pretty much unchanged for generations.” This is Dr. Guzek’s fourth trip to Ethiopia, the land with more blindness per capita than any nation on earth. LeGate hopes to air the video soon after her return to Seattle.

“I can’t wait for that moment when these people are finally able to see for the first time in years. It’s a dramatic moment.” LeGate’s especially excited for this trip because she’ll be bringing along her (then) 18 year-old daughter, Marah. “It’s so cool Marah will get to see all this.” She says, “Imagine watching that moment when someone’s giving the gift of sight. I can’t wait.”

The people getting the surgery will finally have a measure of independence. But LeGate says just as important is the liberation that the blind’s caregivers receive after the surgery.

She says the Omo River Valley is, “right out of National Geographic.” LeGate, who’s worked at Seattle Channel since she left KIRO 7 TV in 2010, says, “You’ll recognize this tribe, the Mursi, by the plates they wear in their lips.” Tri Cities Rotary is paying her way.

Dr Guzek’s cataracts work is supported by the Tropical Health Alliance Foundation an organization founded by Dr. Larry Thomas from California.

On April 16th, a 22-minute documentary LeGate produced entitled, “Women to Women” will air on The Seattle Channel’s “Community Stories”. LeGate’s work can often be seen on the Seattle Channel.

Penny traveled to Uganda for that project. The doc follows a group of women, some from Seattle, who travel to Africa to share their skills with women there. LeGate says the project was especially difficult because it was just her video and no narration. “It’s a little scary.”

  1. Margo says:

    Penny words can say all that I feel at the loss of your daughter. My friend Mark loss his son, 20, the same way on Aug 5,2012 he would have been leaving for Art school on thethe 25th and turning 21yo Aug 27. Now we are picking up pieces having a memorial on the 26th. It is so VERY sad and such a waste of bright shining star!!! Our. prays and grief we are sharing with you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s