Checking children’s sight is always something of an adventure. First we pile into the pick-up truck and bump our way along dusty unmade roads to get to the remote rural schools we are trying to reach. A few dodgy bridges later we make it to the school in question and are welcomed by the teachers.
“I have children in my school that cannot see the blackboard,” they exclaim, “It would make such a difference to them to have glasses. Come in!”
We stick our Snellen charts to the wall and cover eyes with our homemade pirate patches. The children jostle and giggle, not wanting to be the first in line. One by one we check their sight and it becomes apparent some have serious problems, and others cannot see for close work.
Lisbet is nine years old and has a lazy eye that is no longer seeing much because she has never had the spectacles she needs to make it work. Glasses can make her vision 100% better given a little time.
A few days later we take these children to the optician. They climb into the back of the pick-up, many with their Mum or Granny, and we bump along the track to town, covering them in dust. I have some 30 people in the vehicle and hope no policemen take issue with us.
Once in the optician the faces of the children light up at the sparkly, shiny glasses on display. They have never seen anything like it. They complete their tests and choose their spectacles, breath held in excitement. The bright pink and yellow frames prove popular.
A fifteen year old girl is already blind in one eye from a neglected infection that has scarred the macula. Her other eye is now deteriorating and she needs an urgent appointment with the ophthalmologist. She is only now finishing primary school as she has had to repeat several years due to learning difficulties caused by malnutrition. Her mother is raising her and her 7 siblings alone, and has no work. Sometimes there is not enough to eat.
The optician comments a twelve year old’s sight problems seem to her to be psychological. This girl came home to find her mother had shot herself some 3 years ago. I hope I can persuade her father to allow me to find her help with a psychologist.
In a few days I will take
Edison his mega strong spectacles, with which he can read
to the second last line of the chart. I
hope he will wear them with pride and be able to learn. I hope he will enjoy school more and
attend. I hope he will have a brighter
future due to this simple helping hand he is being given.
My heart goes out to these children who have such a simple need, and hope that being able to see better will make a real difference in their lives. I hope they will study hard and make something of themselves. I hope they will now be able to read the little Bible story books we have given them, and will understand the reason why we help them. I hope they will remember this gesture of kindness and reach out to help a friend in need when they have the opportunity.