Sixteen-year-old Vanessa dreams of being a doctor someday. But when she started having trouble reading the blackboard at school, her grades began to suffer, and she worried she would never have the opportunity to study medicine.
The Grade 11 student lives in Matero, a high-density neighbourhood in Lusaka, Zambia. Last year, her school’s health club coordinator suggested that she get her eyes checked at the Matero Vision Centre, a clinic established with Operation Eyesight’s support in 2021. From there, Vanessa was referred to Lusaka’s University Teaching Hospital.
At the hospital, Vanessa received a diagnosis for cataracts. She also learned that she has diabetes, a metabolic disease that put her at a high risk of developing various eye conditions, including cataracts. Doctors helped her get her blood sugar levels under control and she underwent surgery on both eyes.
But Vanessa’s struggles weren’t over yet. After the cataract surgery, she went back to school but still had trouble reading the blackboard, and she couldn’t see clearly at night. Her grades continued to slip, and she had trouble concentrating in class. During a follow-up appointment, Vanessa was told she also needed eyeglasses. She received a prescription, but her parents couldn’t afford the cost of the glasses.
Working with our partners at the OneSight EssilorLuxottica Foundation, we paired up Vanessa with the eyeglasses she needed. Since 2021, EssilorLuxottica has provided thousands of eyeglasses to patients at the Matero and Maamba Vision Centres in Zambia so that more children like Vanessa can get a pair of glasses quickly and free of charge.
Now, Vanessa proudly wears her tortoiseshell-framed glasses to school every day. “Now, I can see faraway objects clearly,” she said. “This will help me concentrate in class and achieve my dream of becoming a doctor.”
With files from Zambia Program Manager Kelly Kaira.
Give the Gift of Sight today and help restore sight and independence for more girls like Vanessa. Vision impairment disproportionately affects women and girls, but they are less likely to be prioritized for eye health care. That’s why our Hospital-Based Community Eye Health projects are aimed at reaching everyone in need of eye care, regardless of gender or family income.