Seven-year-old Leonides was in a hopeless situation. Living in poverty-stricken Burundi, he faced a lifetime of blindness in a country with little access to health care or support for those with vision-impairment.
Leo couldn’t go to school, he couldn’t participate in village life, and he was becoming angry and withdrawn. His blindness had been severe for two years and, as his cataracts worsened, his vision became so clouded that all he could do was sit inside his house all day – sometimes kicking the wall in frustration.
Click here to watch Leo’s story and transformation.
Childhood blindness in developing countries
Childhood blindness isn’t as common as adult blindness, but there are still many instances of hereditary, juvenile or inherited diseases that can cause vison loss or blindness in the early years.
If a child has a treatable case in a developed country, they can usually be dealt with before their vision is permanently damaged. But many children live in places where health systems and support don’t exist.
It’s here where blindness has a devastating ripple effect as these children can’t participate in their communities or receive an education. Their families are further trapped in a cycle of poverty, and sometimes – tragically – these children are abandoned.
It’s donations like yours that help these children survive.
Dr Levi Kandeke, the only paediatric eye surgeon in Burundi, was fearful for Leo’s sight. He considers every child who is blind a medical emergency. If sight isn’t restored by about the age of 10, the lack of normal visual stimulation limits the brain’s ability to ever process visual stimuli. The tragedy is how few children in Burundi will get help in time.
Saving Leo’s sight
Fortunately for Leo, his devoted mother Juliette trekked for a whole day so that she could seek help for Leo at one of The Foundation’s clinics in Burundi. Despite the heartbreaking situation she faced with her son, she held on to the belief that his eyes could be saved.
The Foundation rushed Leo to Dr Levi so that his cataracts could be operated on and he may have the chance to see again.
“What we’re doing is giving these people the chance to help themselves. We are giving them independence,” Fred Hollows once said.
After a long surgery, Leo’s cataracts were removed. When the patches that nearly covered his face were gently pulled off, he blinked slowly, his light perception already improving minutes after the operation. A small, uncertain smile played on his face.
By the time Leo returned to the village, it was clear he was able to see. A celebratory mood swept over the whole village and Juliette could only clap and sing in grateful amazement.
Watch the reaction of Leo’s village here.
Just like Fred Hollows, Juliette never gave up and neither will The Foundation. We’ll continue to help many children like Leo, but our work is only possible with the support of people like you.
Please, donate today. The more we support children like Leo, the more people we give a future to.
Story Source: The Fred Hollows Foundation.
Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities and currently works at Redkite, a childhood cancer charity.