Of the 32.4 million people who are blind worldwide, 3 out of 5 are women and girls. And yet they’re statistically less likely to find treatment. For these women and girls, their options in life narrow as they miss out on education and work.
“Can I go to school today?”
In the remote region of Transmara in Kenya, one of these girls was three-year old Faith. Abandoned by her parents because she was born blind
, Faith was taken in by her remarkable Aunt Helen – a woman who never stopped believing in a better life for this clever and curious little girl.
Every day Faith would wake up and ask her Aunt Helen: “Can I go to school today?” For Helen, it was heartbreaking to think that a child who wanted to learn so much may never have that chance.
Instead of sending her to school, Helen would hoist Faith on her back, carrying her as she worked in the fields. It’s backbreaking to carry a child in this way, but with no one else to look after Faith, there was no choice.
Despite having five other children of her own to look after, Helen took her responsibility for Faith in her stride. The family live a modest life in a small hut and they only have basic necessities.
None of her other children have shoes, but when Faith couldn’t see, Helen made sure Faith had two pairs of shoes: a blind little girl with bare feet could easily hurt herself.
One hour to give her sight
People in Helen’s village said Faith would never see - she was born blind and would stay that way. But Helen knew the kind of life that lay ahead for Faith if she remained blind forever. When she heard about an eye clinic through an outreach program, Helen walked 25 kilometers with Faith on her back. She didn’t care – she would do anything for her little girl.
I would sell all my cows, everything we have, to give her sight...
- Helen, Faith's aunt
Doctors at the eye clinic told Helen that Faith’s sight could be saved with an operation at Sabatia Eye Hospital. It was a 5 hour drive and too far away for Helen to get to, but The Fred Hollow Foundation organised for Helen and Faith to get to the hospital.
There Dr Ollando, an ophthalmologist trained by The Foundation, performed the surgery in under an hour while Helen anxiously paced the halls.
Her dream came true
If I get a pen, I'll go to school...
- Three year old Faith
The next morning, when the eye patches came off, it was clear that Faith could see - and the first thing she wanted was a pen.
Helen is overjoyed to see Faith’s transformation. She’s now an independent little girl who is constantly playing with the other children in the village. Once, she used to hide her face in the folds of her aunt’s skirt, but now she scampers around with her friends, only needing to come to her aunt when she’s hungry.
When a girl can see, she can learn
Education for girls and women leads to possibility. But, in places like remote Kenya, education for blind girls and women isn’t feasible. Even at the young age of three, Faith understood this, and now with sight saved, her life can take shape in so many different ways.
Sixty per cent of the world’s blind are women and girls. Like Faith, there are so many girls around the world with no access to education if they can’t see.
That's why we need your help. Together we can change their path and give them a chance.