Restoring sight and hope in Rural Rwanda

Caption: Jacqueline with her husband and children outside their home.

Felicien and his family

Jacqueline Nyirahabineza spends her days laboring in other people’s farms in order to make ends meet. Her husband, Felicien Ukwitegetse has congenital cataract meaning that his vision has been impaired since he was a child. As a result, he heavily depends on his wife to put food on the table and to look after their children.

When Jacqueline married Felicien, she was fully aware of his sight problem. “My mother-in-law told me that he had been partially blind since birth,” she said.

The entire family was however surprised when both their children were born with eye defects. None was aware that Felicien’s condition was actually hereditary.

“For my son, Bonheur, I only noticed the problem when he started to walk. He was not able to tell where I was when walking around. The same thing happened with his sister,” Jacqueline explained. The children’s eye defect is a real hinderance to their development as they cannot go to school or play like other children.

Bonheur playing in the corridor of Dr Agarwal Hospital after the surgery.

When The Fred Hollows Foundation (FHF) team visited the family, the mother of two was quick to elucidate that if her husband got full recovery of his sight, it would greatly improve the family’s well-being. Looking after the children on her own besides working long hard hours to make ends meet has been very challenging for her.

Shortly after the visit by FHF, Felicien and both his children are now scheduled for surgery in Kigali at Dr. Agarwal Hospital. Jacqueline is ecstatic about the operation. “It hurts to see my family like this so I am really looking forward to them receiving treatment. I am especially hopeful of the possibility of taking both my children to school,” Jacqueline explained before her husband and children are taken in for operation.

Bonheur happily doodles shortly after his eye patches were removed.

The operation was a success and they all could not contain their joy when Dr. Ciku Mathenge, FHF Medical Advisor and Surgeon at Dr. Agarwal Eye Hospital, removes the eye patches. It is a whole new world for the children to explore. Everything around them is clear and brighter for the very first time. Dr. Mathenge cautioned Jacqueline and Felicien that they will now need to be more careful with the children as they will move around a lot on their own.

Sight has been restored and hope renewed for the family. Felicien is glad that he can finally work and help his wife to look after the family.

Young Frank’s story

When Kampire separated from her husband, she could no longer look after both of her children on her own and she sent Frank to live with his grandmother. Frank has been living with his grandmother for one year now. Though old and alone, she does everything possible to take care of Frank.

By now, Frank should already be enrolled in school but due to his eye problems, he cannot go to school. He likes football so he spends most of his days playing the game but cannot go to school yet as he needs special care.

“Although Frank sees a little, we do not like leaving him alone because he might get hurt or stray away,” Donathile, Frank’s grandmother explained.

Kampire with her children and mother outside their home.
Frank after the surgery with his grandmother.

Frank’s cataract is not hereditary. “When he started to walk, he did not move around like a child with good eyesight. Frank seemed to have a problem seeing where he was going. I do not know what caused it because no one else in our family has such a problem,” Kampire explained.

Kampire only sought medical attention for her son last year and that is when she found out that he had congenital cataract. With the support of FHF, Frank underwent a successful surgery.

“I do not know how I can repay you for what you have done for my son. I am so grateful for your help. When we get back home, we will enroll Frank to school and I hope that when he grows up he will change someone else’s life the way you have changed his today,” Kampire said with her face beaming with happiness.