June 13, 2011
On a sunny afternoon, a 4-year-old boy donned in a green action figure t-shirt jumps around laughing and playing with his brother and friends. There’s nothing unusual about the scene. Lao children all over the country are doing the exact same thing on this particularly beautiful, hot and humid Thursday afternoon. For Pheangma, though, this mundane act is a miracle.
“Before Pheangma got his glasses we worried about him all the time. He couldn’t see anything more than a meter in front of his face. Our house is close to the road, and we constantly worried about him being hit by a car,” said Chone, Pheangma’s grandmother. She looked down at the piece of straw she was twiddling with her fingers as she spoke, remembering the constant anxiety she felt before Pheangma received his glasses.
Pheangma is like many children in Laos. His family has little money. Many families cannot even afford the transportation costs to get to the doctor, much less the fee for a doctor’s visit. Some families had no idea their child’s problem was treatable, that is, until IRD came to their village with Better Vision for Better Life (BVBL).
BVBL is a program that conducts eye screenings in the community and at schools to identify children with vision problems. After the necessary screenings, the children in need are treated with glasses or even surgery. The families of these children often do not realize that better vision and better life are even possible, much less available to them. By providing the services, training, and covering the costs of treatment, BVBL has completely changed the everyday lives of many Lao children.
“When Pheangma first received his glasses he exclaimed, ‘I’ve never been able to see like this before! Now, I can play with my friends! I can go with my parents to the field!’” recalled Chone.
Both Chone and Pheangma’s mother, Thid, grinned from ear to ear as they explained how they no longer constantly worry about Pheangma. For the first time since he was born, they are able to let him do things by himself.
“For the first time, we can now let him go play with his friends,” Chone smiled and the corners of her eyes wrinkled. “Thank you, IRD, so much for all you have done.”
It’s the simple things like laughing and playing with your friends that you finally see as a miracle, when looking through new lens. In case you were wondering, Pheangma’s not just putting his glasses to use playing. Next year, he will be going to school for the first time in his life. I’d say that’s better vision for better life.