Listen: Jane Edge in conversation with Stephen O’Doherty.
Miracles Day is an inspiring annual event held each August when Christian radio stations around Australian join forces with CBM to give the gift of sight-saving surgery to people living with cataracts in the world’s poorest countries. 90 percent of people with vision impairment live in developing countries.
On Open House CEO of CBM Australia, Jane Edge explained the impact Miracles Day has on the people who have cataract operations to restore their sight. Six year old Nhung, pictured above, is one of the people CBM has helped with cataract surgery. Her family are very poor and live in a remote village in northern Vietnam.
A 12-minute miracle
On Miracles Day, Thursday August 16, 2018, Australians are asked to donate a $33 ‘Miracle’ to give sight-saving surgery to someone living in poverty. On average, cataract operations take just 12 minutes, but can change a person’s life. Give the miracle gift of sight by calling 131 226 or going to cbm.org.au/miraclesday
CBM Australia has been operating for over 30 years, and is part of the world’s largest disability development organisation. CBM works to empower people with disabilities who live in some of the poorest places in the world. They work in three key areas: Preventing blindness, ending poverty and transforming the lives of people with disabilities.
- Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness – responsible for half of all blindness in the world.
- About 20 million people in the world are blind from cataracts.
- Cataract remains the leading cause of blindness and an important cause of visual impairment across the globe.
About 20 million people in the world are blind from cataracts. Cataract remains the leading cause of blindness and an important cause of visual impairment across the globe.
90 percent of people with vision impairment live in developing countries.
Although cataracts are generally straightforward to treat, they often lead to permanent vision loss for people living in the world’s poorest countries, who cannot access affordable eye-care and surgery. Each year, CBM International, (of which CBM Australia is a part), through partners, performs 600,000 eye operations. Over the years they have performed more than 12 million cataract operations worldwide.
At Nhung’s village, the elders and extended family have been expecting CBM’s visit and all hope that these experts can treat Nhung’s failing sight. They wait with excitement outside the little tin roofed wooden house perched on a hill. Nhung shares the house with her parents, older brother and sister and grandparents.
Inside, the house has a dirt floor and is dark. There is one main room and three small bedrooms. Nhung and her sister share a small room, with a piece of material hung up to give privacy. They sleep on mats on the floor. Inside the room, there’s a small pile of clothes for the girls to wear.
They proudly show CBM staff their school uniforms. Their shoes are torn and very old. Nhung and the women in her village wear a traditional dress, with colourful embroidery to mark the occasion of CBM’s visit to their home.
Eyes irritated by cooking smoke
An open fire with a large pot on it is used for cooking – but fills the home with smoke. This smoke irritates Nhung’s eye and she continually rubs it. Without running water for washing hands, Nhung rubs dirt and grit into her eye – making the pain worse. Nhung’s family are farmers – they keep animals and grow crops to eat. This provides the family with food, but there isn’t money left over for much else.
Outside the home is a homemade pen constructed of wooden poles and a corrugated iron roof where they keep the family’s pig. They are raising and breeding it to provide food for the family. The pig is trained to come by name, and Nhung helps to look after it.
Lively and friendly
Nhung is a lively, friendly and outgoing six year old. She is small for her age. She sings a song to welcome the CBM staff and explains that she loves singing and leads the choir at school.
Nhung is the youngest child in the family and doted on by her older sister in particular. She constantly hugs and puts her arm around her in a protective way. They collect water from the well together and also walk to school together. It’s clear that her older sister feels responsible for ensuring her sister is safe and looked after.
Nhungs parents are worried
Her older sister is sad as she explains that Nhung is very pretty except for her eyes. She says that she loves her sister so much, but is upset when she thinks of her sisters’ eyesight becoming so bad.
Nhung’s mother and father tell the CBM worker that they are really worried about her eyesight. As they explain this, the stress and concern on her father’s face is clear. Her mother wipes away tears as she speaks about her daughter’s struggles with her failing eyesight.
Sunlight hurts her eye
Nhung’s eye has become painful and red and she squints when she is outside. Inside the house is dark, and she likes being inside as the sunlight doesn’t hurt her eye, but the smoke from the open fire irritates it. Nhung explains that she loves school but cannot see out of her left eye and it’s really difficult to see the blackboard at school.
Nhung needs help
Her family are so worried about Nhung and want to find out what is wrong with her eye. But as the family is very poor – and share a motorbike for transportation – they haven’t been able to go to the nearest city, Dien Bien, to get help. It would involve a 5 hour journey first by motorbike and then a bus ride to get to the health clinic in the city. They know that Nhung’s eyesight is failing, but they explain that they don’t know what to do about it.
Finding out what is wrong
The village elder also explains that they want to get help for her, but don’t know what is wrong or how to get help for Nhung. As the CBM worker examines Nhung’s eye, her extended family and the village elders gather around – eager to find out what is wrong.
Complicated but fixable
Nhung’s eye examination reveals that her condition is more complicated than first thought. CBM staff and the Ophthalmologist from their partner in Dien Bien tell the family that they can help. They organise for Nhung and her father to come to the centre where they have the equipment to examine Nhung’s eye and work out what has to happen.
“I cannot see clearly”
Nhung shares how she felt before undergoing her first cataract operation: “Before the treatment, I can see very little. I feel the uncomfortable. Ok, so when I was at the class and the teacher asked me to read the book, to read the text in the textbook, I can see clearly in another eye but when I cover this eye I cannot see clearly.”
All of the Open House stations are supporting Miracles Day 2018. You can give the gift of sight by calling 131 226 or going to cbm.org.au/miraclesday
CBM International works in 63 countries around the world. They seek to empower people with disability in the world’s poorest countries, breaking down the barriers that stop them from reaching their full potential. In low-income countries, people living with disability are often unable to access basic rights and services and are often excluded from employment, and social and community activities. Without these opportunities, people with a disability often fall deeper into poverty. Globally, CBM works to break this cycle. Disability and poverty go hand-in-hand, so we tackle them together. We empower people with disability to access healthcare, rehabilitation, education, employment and social opportunities. We always work in partnership with local organisations, to ensure the work we support will continue in the long term.
CBM projects in Vietnam are also supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), which provides us with funding to implement development and poverty alleviation programs in Vietnam. As we have discussed on Open House Foreign Aid is supported by most Australians.
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