Tang, Rahel and Pam have never met, but they are three of the 59,545 women whose lives were transformed by sight-restoring cataract surgery supported by The Fred Hollows Foundation in 2012. Here are their stories. 
  • Two-thirds of the world’s blind are women
  • The Foundation supported cataract surgery for 59,545 women in 2012
  • Three women share their stories

Two-thirds of blind people are women, according to the World Health Organization. The Foundation is working to overcome the barriers of poverty and accessibility that prevent women in developing countries from having their sight restored.

China – Tang’s story

Sixty-six-year-old Tang Bangxian lives in Dezhou, a town in Dechang Country, Sichuan Province. She met her husband Zhang Ruihua, 79, later in life and while their relationship has defied obstacles it still faces many challenges. They rent a small damp house and get by collecting rubbish and selling recyclables. With family no longer in their lives they rely on the support of neighbours. Tang’s deteriorating eyesight meant her husband Zhang had to forage through the rubbish alone and she feels a burden. Zhang is Tang’s lifeline and their love story is more powerful than the poverty they have found themselves in. The development of eye care services in Dechang County supported by The Foundation saw Tang diagnosed with cataract in both eyes, but surgery changed her life – “I can work and won’t be a burden any more”.

Kenya – Rahel’s story

For a long time the residents of Kendu Bay on Kenya’s Lake Victoria had little access to eye care. With extensive waiting lists, hospitals were short staffed and ill equipped, and expensive alternative facilities were too far away. When Rahel Abok, 78, started “seeing sparks” and her vision “became cloudy” she worried for the care of her six orphaned grandchildren. Then she lost her sight completely, unsuccessfully trying to find affordable treatment. “I could no longer tend to my crops to put food on the table for my grandchildren. I had totally resigned to my fate,” she says.  But a Foundation-supported surgical outreach conducted in Kendu Bay diagnosed Abok with cataract in both eyes. Surgery restored her sight in just twenty minutes – “I could hardly believe I was seeing again”.

Vietnam – Pam’s story

In Hoa Binh, a mountainous province of Vietnam, 80-year-old Sa Thi Pam has been blind for three years. Supporting a disabled husband, Pam struggled to make a living in this poor farming region. Her daughter took her to a local health centre for treatment but was told by staff to accept she had an ageing disease. “The worst thing is to be a burden to my children,” says Pam.Fortunately, The Foundation’s Vietnam Comprehensive Eye Care Development Project in Hoa Binh trained eye health workers in cataract education and treatment, helping Pam’s daughter to realise surgery was available – “My mother was welcomed out of darkness,” she says.

The Foundation’s work in Dezhou, Hoa Binh and Kendu Bay has given Tang, Pam and Abok a future. Find out more about our sight-restoring work around the world.