Iaulium doesn’t know how old she is, but she thinks she is 80. She had been blind in both eyes for four years.
Before she went blind, she used to garden, do jobs around the house, raise pigs and look after her children, but since going blind, she now relied on her children for everything. She had no confidence to walk. Every step she took, she had to have her children or grandchildren with her, even when she visited the toilet.
Iaulium is from Tanna, a remote island of 29,000, with no eye doctor. When Tanna’s only eye nurse, David, found out that our outreach team would be in Port Vila, he managed to secure funding for seven Tanna residents to travel to Port Vila.
Tanna is over 500 kilometres away from Port Vila and Iaulium found the plane journey hard. She was a bit confused and scared when boarding. It was the same at the other end, even going into the eye clinic.
Ialium had cataracts in both eyes and so had two operations over two days. The day after, she was a different lady. When the doctors removed her bandage, her face lit up. She couldn’t stop beaming. She held her hands aloft.
After a few minutes, she tried to walk alone. Nervously she got up and put one foot in front of the other, then she laughed and looked at us all. She could walk by herself!
“I am so happy. I can see now. I feel so much joy. I can see the chair. I can see the floor. The bench. I can’t believe it. It’s a miracle.”
She talked on and on. Later in the day, she whispered to one of the other nurses, “I went to the toilet by myself. The first time in four years.”
Iauilim’s story, and the six others who travelled from Tanna with her, are not unique. Many people across the Pacific need urgent eye care but cannot access it because of their remote location and lack of nearby eye-care services.
Our supporters mean we can train local eye doctors and nurses, like David, who go back into their communities and provide essential eye care, giving people in the Pacific back their sight and their independence.