Global Partners Program
Learn more about people we have helped around the globe:
Several years ago, 13-year-old Henok Lema from Kulbi, Ethiopia, lost the sight in his right eye due to a severe cataract. “People made fun of me. They called me ‘One Eyed Boy.’ Everyday I felt troubled and ashamed from not being able to see with my right eye.’
His poor vision was holding him back in school, and Hemok had almost given up on his dream of becoming an engineer. “Because of the bullying, I lost interest in playing with my friends and I did not like going to school anymore. My mother saw all this trouble and advised me to drop out. But I found it difficult to quit my dream of becoming an engineer. So I kept going. It wasn’t easy to go to school being in such a situation, and sometimes, I was seriously considering my mother’s advice.”
Then something unexpected happened: someone told his family about a cataract surgical campaign coming to a nearby hospital in Harar. The day after his surgery, as his bandages were taken off, Henok shared his excitement. “I will regain the respect I had before becoming blind,” Henok said. “I am so grateful to my doctor and always love him for fixing the problem I had with my right eye. Thank you!”
Fifteen year old Eskedar Haji from Arwacha in Oromia State, Ethiopia, faced insults, bullying and discrimination after he became blind 6 years ago.
When we talked to Eskedar the day he regained eyesight he recalled,
“I couldn’t go to school since there are no schools for blind children like me in the vicinity. I was not able to walk alone and also not happy that I had to depend on my brothers and sisters to move from place to place when I needed. I felt useless, nothing but a burden to everyone.
Eskedar was one of 40 children who underwent surgery during a cataract campaign in Harar. Working with local partners from Harar, Jimma and Addis Ababa, the team provided over 1,200 sight-restoring cataract surgeries in just six days.
Eskedar was accompanied by his father. “It took me for a while to believe that I can see. I thought I was dreaming. I am so very happy,” said Eskedar, while his father, overwhelmed by happiness, was shouting from a distance saying, “This is a special day in my life, I will consider it his new birthday.”
With many other patients ululating, laughing and singing in the background, Eskedar realized his life would be different from now on.
“I can’t wait to join other children at school now. I want to walk among them with pride. I will study hard and become an eye doctor.”
At birth, both of 8 year old Nunu’s eyes were affected by congenital cataract, causing her eyesight to quickly deteriorate, until she became completely blind.
During this campaign in Harar, over 1,200 people regained their eyesight and Nunu was one 40 children who underwent surgery. Before her bandages were taken off, we asked her to tell us more about what it was like to live in blindness. Nunu remembers, “I had to depend on my family to walk and move around. I preferred staying at home and didn’t to go out with friends. They would not let me play with them even if I wanted to because of my blindness. Everyone laughed at me.”
Young children with disabilities living in remote regions often carry the additional burden of stigmatization. There is little to no infrastructure to accommodate special needs, and as such, many children are destined to live a life in isolation.
“I was not given a chance to go to school because I am blind. No one bothered to help me. I used to cry every time I heard children talking about school and I was always worried about what will happen to me in the future.”
The morning after surgery, when her bandages were taken off, Nunu felt very confused, ”I didn’t know what I was feeling. At first I was shocked, because I never thought I would see again. Now I am the happiest girl in the entire world and I can’t wait to go back home and show my friends that I can see just like they do. I know they would let me play with them now and go to school. I am so excited.”
The blindness of a child is a hardship and burden for the whole family. Caring for a blind child requires a family member to care for them – impacting their ability to work or attend school if they are a sibling. At her young age, Nunu was already very aware of this fact: “My parents suffered with me all this time. Now a time has come for me to pay them back. I am going to help them in every possible way from this moment on. I am so thankful to the doctor who gave me my sight back. Thank you!”
A sight-changing procedure. A life-changing gift.
By placing your care in our hands, you will give the gift of sight to someone else. Together, we can make a positive impact on our global community and help eradicate curable blindness around the world.
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Ask us how you can help by calling 541-734-4816.