Hen Vin has been through far more than we can ever imagine: Cambodia’s harrowing past, a landmine explosion which took his leg and then after all of that, cataract blindness.
Many Cambodian people are still living in poverty after years of starvation, execution and disease under the Pol Pot regime and following guerrilla war with Vietnam. Over 35 years later, the rice fields Hen Vin and his family farm are still littered with lethal land mines yet to be cleared.
One terrible day in 1996, Hen Vin stood on a mine while planting rice. The explosion took off his right leg and he now walks with the aid of an artificial limb. Then, five years ago, he became blind in both eyes from cataract.
Being blind was worse than losing my leg. It stopped me from all work and supporting my family. I lost hope and felt so heavy. It was like there was a mountain on my chest.
- Hen Vin
With Hen Vin unable to work, he and his wife Chen Nhoy survived on the small amount of money she was able to earn from picking wild berries and crushing them for their seeds.
Hen Vin tried to help her with the crushing, but he couldn’t see the berries and this caused many accidents. Before he had his eyes screened, Hen Vin and his wife had no idea that he had cataract
, and that his blindness was treatable. In fact, over 90% of blindness in Cambodia is avoidable.
The couple were full of hope when they heard about the possibility of treatment at a remote eye clinic run three times a year by The Fred Hollows Foundation. Chen Nhoy worked intensively over many, many days to earn the money needed to transport her husband 40 kilometres to the nearest hospital for treatment.
Hen Vin’s operation was a success. As soon as the patches were lifted off his face, he told us that he felt everything change. He could see again. Hen Vin felt like a new person and he wanted to go home to see his beloved wife.
I became a new man again when my sight was restored. To my wife and I, we are just like a newly married couple, ready to start a new life together again.
- Hen Vin