Almost 300 million people worldwide are visually impaired, of whom 39 million are blind, yet 80% of all visual impairments can be avoided or cured. Cataract surgery and blindness prevention strategies are among the most cost-effective interventions in health care. One of The Life You Can Save's recommended charities, The Fred Hollows Foundation has performed over 98,000 cataract surgeries and over 300,000 other sight-restoring treatments, and conducted almost 2 million eye screenings in 2012 alone. The Fred Hollows Foundation was named the 2013 Australian Charity of the Year and was recognized by The Global Journal as number 43 in their list of Top 100 NGOs in the world.
By Brian Doolan, CEO of The Fred Hollows Foundation
My Linh was born with cataracts in both her eyes and by 2nd grade, her sight was fading. Her mother, Loan, could hear her daughter crying at night. Tears ran down Loan's cheeks as she talked about her daughter trying to study, and being unable to go outside and play with her friends. “When I see that my daughter cannot keep up at school…but I can’t do anything for her,” she said, “I am so sad.”
My Linh and her family live in a remote village in southern Vietnam. In 3rd grade, My Linh got a new teacher who didn't know about her eye problems. The teacher rearranged the children's desks and My Linh, a tall girl for her age, was seated at the back. From there, she couldn't even see the blackboard.
When My Linh tried to learn by reading what her friend had written down from the board, she was accused of copying and was scolded by the teacher. She was deeply embarrassed and upset.
By the second semester of 3rd grade, My Linh was no longer able to keep up. She left school at the age of nine. “My hope for My Linh is to not have a life of hardship and poverty like I have,” My Linh’s mother said. “I want her to have a brighter life.”
My Linh lives with her mother, father and younger sister. My Linh's younger sister and her father were also born with cataracts in both eyes. Her parents work hard but are poor and have no money to spare.
Luckily for My Linh, her family heard about The Fred Hollows Foundation’s special “Sight for Children” program in Vietnam.
The day came for My Linh’s operation. “I have had sleepless days and nights…waiting for the surgery day to arrive,” My Linh's mother said. Dr. Phuong operated on both eyes at once, under general anesthesia. When the patches were taken off, “I saw my mother's face looking at me and I was happy,” My Linh said, smiling. She was grinning from ear to ear as she turned to her doctor, “I want to say thank you – my eyes see clearly. Thank you very much.”
“Now my eyes are very clear. So please pass my thanks to all of the aunts and uncles who have helped me,” she said, meaning all our Fred Hollows Foundation supporters.
Home again with her friends, My Linh now has the chance of a brighter future. “I really want to go back to school. When I grow up I want to be a teacher,” My Linh said. But first of all, she just wanted to get back home. “I am really looking forward to seeing my friends. I really want to play with them. To chase them and play hide and seek.” Thanks to The Fred Hollows Foundation's supporters, My Linh can see again.
To learn more about The Fred Hollows Foundation and to read more stories like this, visit www.hollows.org.au.