NZ charity helps East Timorese see clearly

An East Timorese man enjoys his new spectaclesAn East Timorese man enjoys his new spectacles
iven a pair of prescription glasses, or potentially sight-saving surgery.

The Fred Hollows Foundation is currently surveying East Timor’s 13 districts in an effort to find out how many are in need specialist eye care.

A smaller survey in 2005 estimated as many as 13,500 East Timorese were blind, but that 10,000 of them could have their sight back through a cataract operation. 

Today the difference even a simple pair of glasses is making is astonishing. More than 80 pairs of spectacles were handed out today. 

Yesterday Louis could barely see - hours after receiving his glasses he’s chopping wood. He tells me he hasn’t seen properly since the Japanese invaded East Timor during World War II.

“You hear many of the people saying how lucky they are because now they can see, and they can walk and pick things up, and because they can see and they feel good," says Sarah Pereira.

The news isn’t good for 15-year-old Justina. If her vitamin A deficiency had been detected earlier, her sight could have been saved, but now it’s too late. But the Hollows Foundation will work with her to manage her blindness and make her more independent. 

Another five of the 100 or so tested today are also legally blind, but a cataract operation will reverse that.

For 11-year-old Lourdes, who has only been able to make out bright lights and shadows for the past four years, the operation means she may finally go to school. 

In just one day so many lives have been changed forever.

3 News


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