There is perhaps no one better than a teacher to talk about the joy of reading. For all of her life, Louise Marong has been a passionate teacher and reader. The two went hand in hand. But when she began to lose her sight because of cataracts, reading became only a memory of the past.
Today Louise lives with three generations of her family in a home on the back streets of Banjul, the capital city of The Gambia. She can still navigate her own way around her home, but she can’t wander far from where she lives. She can no longer read and cannot even recognize most of the faces in her family.
A street around the corner from Louise’s family home in Banjul, The Gambia.
Now 70, she is a retired primary school teacher. She chose to end teaching ten years ago at the country’s typical retirement age, to spend more time with her family, though her retirement payments are a slim $10 / month.
Since Louise lost most of her sight, she can no longer do what she spent decades sharing with others-the ability to read. Her two smiling granddaughters frequently spend time with her, but she can no longer read a story to them because of her cataracts.
One granddaughter, Emma, wears a worn pink t-shirt that reads “I love my dog.” But when we met her, Louise couldn’t read it.
Louise’s younger relatives heard that a relatively new eye care center in the area might be able to help. They reached out to a local eye clinic that provided a referral for cataract surgery, but since the demand for surgeries was so high, she had to join a waiting list.
Two of Louise’s relatives help her walk to the clinic at Sheikh Zayed Regional Eye Care Center.
In October 2015, Louise was able to receive surgery with the support of the HelpMeSee campaign launch in The Gambia. A surgeon at HelpMeSee’s local partner hospital removed the cataract and replaced it with a lens that will restore her sight.
A hospital staff member gives Louise the medications she will need for after the surgery.
Cataract surgery wasn’t just for Louise. It was for her family. And it was for her grandchildren, who will now be able to learn to read from the best teacher they know.
Louise’s granddaughter Emma, 7, will now be able to work on her reading skills with her grandmother now that Louise has had cataract surgery.