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Fred Hollows Foundation changing lives in East Timor

Friday 20 Nov 2009 4:54p.m.

Fred Hollows Foundation changing lives in East Timor
Treatable cataract blindness is the main cause of vision impairment in East Timor where around 10,000 are waiting for sight restoring surgery.

A New Zealand charity is training staff and building a new National Eye Centre to start addressing the backlog, but the operating theatre won’t be completed for another year.

In the meantime, the Fred Hollows Foundation has found an innovative way to start changing lives.

With the help of the defence force they are converting a shipping container into an operating theatre.

Olinda Soares is 57-years-old, and feels lucky to be doing everyday chores.

The violence of 2006 robbed her of her home, but cataracts robbed her of her independence.

A cataract operation means she can now see out of one eye, and she’s due to have the other operated on. It’s been the answer to her prayers.

The Fred Hollows Foundation says around 10,000 East Timorese could regain their sight through a cataract operation, but that figure is growing by 2,000 a year.

Last year only 300 operations were performed through East Timor’s Ministry of Health, so a new surgical facility - even a makeshift one, is critical.

Ms Soares' progress and the improvement in her quality of life is an inspiration to other blind East Timorese.

“We believe once people realise we can give them the gift of sight then they’ll be knocking at our doorstep,” says ophthalmologist - Mitchell Brinks.

Seeing is believing and charitable New Zealanders helped make the miracle happen.

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