Vaileth and Susana, aged 4 and 5, live with their grandmother, Fausta, and another young cousin in a small mud house in Tanzania.
“Their parents left them with me when Susana was less than a year old”, explains Fausta, who farms banana, maize and a small amount of coffee on the land by their house. “My husband lives in town to try to earn a living, but he doesn’t provide very often. I have to farm to earn money to look after the children. It has been very difficult feeding and looking after them all.”
Fausta first noticed that something was wrong with both her granddaughters' eyes when Susana was only a few months old.
“I especially noticed that Susana was finding it difficult to see and that she had white in her pupils. As she grew, I would give her something to look at and she would hold it close to her face to try to see it.”
“In the end I took them to a local clinic, but the nurse told me that nothing was really wrong and suggested that when my daughter was pregnant, she may have done something wrong to cause the problem.”
Vaileth and Susana’s sight problems started affecting their everyday life.
“Vaileth has started nursery, but she needs to sit at the front of the class otherwise she can't see what the teacher is doing. I put a spoon down in front of Susana, but she struggles to see it to pick it up. It is very difficult for her to find things. They both struggle to help me with any tasks around the house.”
Then Fausta heard that CBM’s partner hospital was running free eye screenings to identify people with sight problems.
“I heard in church that there was going to be an eye screening in the area and I took both girls along. They said I needed to take the girls to hospital so they could be looked at properly by the doctors and have an operation.”
Vaileth and Susana were losing their sight to cataracts, which causes the lens of the eye to become cloudy. They were both born with the condition and their sight was slowly deteriorating. Doctors don’t know why both girls have the condition – it is possible it is inherited, or could be linked to environmental conditions. But without treatment in time, they would both become permanently blind.
The hospital arranged for transport for Fausta and the two girls to hospital for cataract surgery, under general anaesthetic. The surgery and transport is funded by CBM supporters, as the family have no money to spare.
“I will be happy when the children have had their surgery”, says Fausta. “They will be able to see, rather than have to feel their way around."
Vaileth and Susana’s surgery went well and Fausta was hopeful for the future.
“Now they can see better, I hope the girls can go to school to get an education so they can live a better life. Thank you so much.”
A few months later, we visited the family at their home to check on their progress.
Both girls need glasses and have been for follow up appointments funded by CBM supporters, but Fausta is delighted that they can now help her at home and find school much easier.
“Vaileth sits at the front of the class, but she doesn’t need to squint any more. She can see the blackboard clearly. She can write. She can learn. Before, this would have been very difficult. Vaileth loves school and is top of her class. Susana is currently at nursery and will start school in January.”
Susana, with a big smile, giggles as she sees a picture of her family on CBM UK’s newsletter that we show her. We ask her what she likes to do. “I like skipping. I am happy.”