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Rattana – eyes open to learning

Rattana and her four siblings live with their grandparents in Cambodia, as their parents have divorced and are working in Thailand. Because wages for unskilled labour are so low, neither one is able to send money home. When Rattana was younger, she had an accident that left her with poor vision and deviation of the injured eye. The injury affected both her vision and her self-esteem. She looked different from the other children and was teased because of her crossed eyes. She had difficulty with sports and struggled at school.

Through the intervention of a donor, who had also had crossed eyes as a child, Rattana had an operation to correct her condition: “Before the operation I could not see and read well…After this operation I can easily read books, and see letters on the blackboard clearly. Also, I can walk and see that everything is so beautiful. I am very happy!”

Thanks to the great success of Rattana’s operation, the donor arranged for a screening outreach team to visit her school. All 350 students and staff received eye examinations, and 17 children and four teachers were found to have uncorrected refractive error. They chose from a stylish selection of frames offered by the team, and two days later received their new glasses, for many of them the first time they had had clear vision in their lives.

A lot has changed for Rattana and her schoolmates since they received vision services. Rattana is now graduating from the 9th grade. Previously shy and withdrawn, she is now frequently in the company of her friends. But ever since surgery opened up her visual world, Rattana has a new love: her classmates and teachers all tell us that she is never seen without a book under her arm, something that would have been unthinkable before her operation. Though she now has a supportive group of friends, reading on her own is her greatest pleasure. And how about Rattana’s school? After the vision screening, glasses became an immediate fashion hit! All the cool kids wear them, and even students who don’t need them want a pair.

Story and Photo credit: Marissa Troxel, Seva