Alpha, 13, and 10 year old David live in Makump, a small, rural village about 40km away from the city of Makeni in Northern Sierra Leone. They were both getting good marks and thriving at a school but gradually, their eye sight was becoming poor.
Eventually, Alpha could only see the board if he was right in front of it and trying hard. David could barely see the board at all. At home in the evening, it became impossible for them to read their text books. Their dreams of becoming a doctor and a police officer were dimming. Their teacher was worried.
Sierra Leone is a poor country that is still emerging from years of conflict and a weakened health system. The boys’ school had never been visited by eye health professionals. But Vision Action is working in partnership to help change things for the better.
Did you know, 63% of all 0 to 15-year olds who cannot see properly, simply need an eye test and a pair of glasses?
Isatu is a young woman from the nearby city of Makeni. Another good student, Isatu got the grades to enrol at university but her family simply could not afford to support her studies. Instead, she watched her friends leave for better opportunities and she felt frustrated.
Until one day, she found out about a training programme, supported by Vision Action and Makeni Government Hospital, to become an Optometry Technician.
“I immediately thought about my grandfather and my uncle who had gone blind, and how I was powerless to help them, but now I might have the chance to save other people’s sight”. (Isatu)
Isatu won a scholarship to study for one year in The Gambia and returned with her qualification to complete a further year of internship in Sierra Leone.
Now, she is based in Makeni Hospital and is helping hundreds of local people to see.
Part of Isatu’s job is to help bring eye care into the heart of rural communities. And she was part of the team that visited Alpha and David’s school, screening all the children, giving those with vision problems full eye tests, and providing them with glasses if needed. Alpha and David were excited to be measured for their very own pair of glasses and they chose the frames they liked best too.
The glasses were made up at one of the Vision Centres that Vision Action helped to set up in 2016. With our continued support, this government owned centre is now a community hub for dispensing glasses, made up by well trained staff.
Now, Alpha and David can see a brighter future.
“I can see so much clearer now. I hope to fulfill my dreams of becoming a police officer. I am so happy to see well”. (David)
And young people in Sierra Leone, like Isatu, are equipped to improve eye heath and provide eye care for people in the long term.
“I love my job very much, it feels so great when you refract a patient, issue him or her with their first glasses and see that smile as they thank you for saving their sight”. (Isatu)
To help more children like Alpha and David, and to train more people like Isatu, please click here to donate.