"Oh Dear" - A story by Frances
09 August 2018 | Temotu Province, Solomon Islands
Together with our bags of glasses and other assorted paraphernalia we were ferried the 700 metres to shore in a large dugout canoe. This village was well prepared, a table with four chairs surrounded by woven mats had been set up under a large shady tree. The morning was busy, the village was long established and had many elderly residents. After I attended to a procession of people with complicated sight issues I was hoping for a straight forward test for readers only.
As the next woman, who was '60 plus', was taking a seat in front of me, her friends said �"the woman is blind�". I thought 'oh dear', we can do a lot but we're not miracle workers' and at the same time hoping my face didn't show my despair. I began asking questions and another person amongst the observers said �"the woman is blind - from birth�". I thought 'oh dear' again, Paul glanced over when he heard this statement, he too was dealing with his own complicated clients.
I picked up the test sheet thinking I would at least go through the motions and held it in front of her face. There was a slight shake of her head, and she said �"all dark�". I moved the sheet very close to her eyes (only an inch or two away) and I noticed a slight change in her facial expression and asked �"little bit clear�". I saw the subtle and fleeting rise of her eyebrows (an affirmative answer in island communication) and I said to myself 'maybe there is hope' and I start testing for severe myopia (short-sightedness).
After forty minutes or so of extensive comparison of different strength spectacles, and much to my amazement (and to the wonderment of the woman and to the crowd of observers) this woman was now seeing her world for the first time. For me to watch as her world became �"all clear�" is something I shell never forget. She told me without the glass everything was all smoky and dark and she could only see shapes not people. She waved to a person in the distance, she could see the 'pikinini�" playing and the coconuts in the trees, she could see Monkey Fist anchored in the bay.
We smiled at each other, she slowly stood, shock my hand, raised her eyebrows fleetingly in appreciation and said �"thank-you to much�" and moved away with her collection of glasses �- two pairs -1.25 'to look close', two pairs -4.75 'to look far' and a pair prescription sunglasses ('medical sunglasses' as we call them) to match. I thought 'oh dear' the woman wasn't blind she just required a pair of corrective eyeglasses, that us in our developed world, all take for granted.
Throughout the remainder of the clinic the woman sat in the circle of observers, clutching her precious glasses, watching the proceedings. Many times I noticed people coming to her to look at her glasses. Her expression reinforced for me that our hard work �- to bring better vision to the remote villagers in the Solomon Islands is so worthwhile.
Maybe the next recipient will be an easy one.......
I sincerely thank all who donated to our project to make this a reality.
Please Note �- Normally people only receive one pair of spectacles, however in cases such as the above, we do give two pairs if we have a large amount of the prescription required.