We first met Peni on an Outreach in Tongatapu, the main island in Tonga. Once a bus driver, Peni lived with his wife and had six daughters and a son. At age 57 he suffered from cataracts in both eyes and lost his sight completely.
Cataract surgery was first performed on Peni’s right eye. However; due to the deterioration of his eye, Peni was still struggling to see the faces of people standing close to him. Eyedrops were slowly improving his sight, but he still couldn’t see much.
Two years later, Peni was still struggling with everyday tasks, things that are second nature to most. Peni used to love watching rugby, but he could no longer do this. He told us how he missed watching his teams play and seeing the good tackles.
He also loved going to church, he loved his community, but poor eyesight meant he was limited to staying at home all day. He missed seeing his friends and relatives around the island. He told us he felt out of place in his own country. All because he couldn’t see.
The day before the operation, the Outreach Team visited Peni at his house. He was sitting next to a car with no tyre on it, attempting to fix it by touch and feel. Fixing cars had been a favourite pastime of Peni's but now it took him much longer.
He was so excited to meet the team and looking forward to the surgery. "I will be the first to the hospital tomorrow - I just want it to be the day, because then I can see again."
Peni’s daughter Suliate brought her dad to the clinic. She had to take a day off work, but she didn’t mind. She was so excited for her father to see again.
The day after his operation Peni was back at the clinic so his bandages could be removed. He told the team; “last night I couldn’t sleep because I was too excited. I woke up early and took a peek and thought – I know it has worked – I can see!”
When the doctor removed his bandage, Peni said “I thought the doctors and nurses were not beautiful because I could not see them, but now I can see, they are all most beautiful”.
“Now I can’t wait to continue with my work, fixing cars, driving buses, my life!!”
“I’m very excited to show my family I can see. It has been hard for everyone. My wife will be shocked! When I knock on the door, she will be shocked and I will say ‘Look I am new again!”
“The way the doctors see me and touch me, I feel at home, they make me feel comfortable and relaxed, what would Tongatapu do without these people.”
A couple of days later the team met Peni in his families DVD shop. He had gone there to read all the posters he couldn’t see before.
“Now I can read and see all the posters on the wall. The next thing I want to do is watch a cartoon movie with my grandchildren.”
He was excited because he had already organised to start driving his bus once again now he could see again.
Peni has regained his independence. He's able to earn a living driving buses, fixing cars and visit his family and friends.
But Peni, his family and the people of Tonga have a new challenge to deal with. Read about the situation in Tonga here.