Zengbao Li is 87 but he has the eyes of a 20-year-old.
Three years ago the world of the music teacher in Lancang County in south western China began to dim, when cataracts began clouding his eyes.
It saddened Zengbao that during his lessons teaching the lu sheng, a traditional reed instrument made of bamboo pipes, he couldn’t see his students’ faces anymore. “I could only hear them talking,” he said ruefully.
He despaired he wouldn’t be able to keep his traditional culture alive for a new generation. His ethnic group, the Lahu, have a long tradition of dancing to the music of the bamboo instrument, clad in elaborate folk costumes.
But luckily, Mr Zengbou was found by the screening team of the Lancang’s First People Hospital, and brought in for surgery.
He was thrilled to be able to resume teaching again once his sight was restored. “After the surgery I found that the steps I was teaching them were wrong!” he said.
Dr Xiangguo Shi, the Foundation-trained surgeon at the First People Hospital, who performed the operation, said 30 to 40 per cent of population in Lancang County have cataract.
That’s a conservative estimate. “Some people live in very remote areas, and it can be difficult for them to come to the hospital, so the prevalence rates might be a lot higher”
The Foundation is working hard to train more eye doctors in rural areas of China, where 50 per cent of the population live, as well as upgrading hospitals and clinics.
“I am always touched to see patients able to take care of themselves after having their sight restored,” Dr Shi said.
Just like Mr Zengbou, it gives them a second chance at a fulfilling life.