Guadelupe Noemi Gomez Rojas
Ten-year-old Guadalupe Noemi Gomez Rojas could not recall a day without blurred or double vision, constant eye strain, and headaches. She suffered crossed eyes compounded by congenital cataracts.
There are no Vision Centers or Eye Hospitals in Guadalupe’s community. She lives with her mother and five siblings in a one-room, dirt floor house in one of Guatemala’s most dangerous neighborhoods.
Visualiza’s “Little Windows of Light ” program (the only in-country eye care outreach service screening children ages 5-15 in low-income areas and public schools) identified Guadalupe’s need and arranged for her transportation, surgeries, and eyeglasses. The program evaluated 35,000 similarly impoverished children that same year (2019), donating 1,140 pairs of eyeglasses and performing 110 surgeries at no cost.
Guadalupe and her peers are growing up fast and will need continued care. Locating a new Vision Center in her area will help meet that need. Meanwhile, she guards her precious eyeglasses in a small cardboard box that contains all of her belongings.
Two boys horsing around in the cinder block school resulted in 7-year-old Gerson Canela getting poked in the eye with a pencil. His teacher rushed him home and helped arrange for a pickup truck to transport the injured boy from their home in Sacpu to the Visualiza Clinic in San Benito.
Dr. Mariano Yee performed emergency surgery to save the eye. Today, Gerson is back in school, reads well and loves math. He helps his grandfather harvest corn and gather firewood for extra money. Someday, he hopes to become a doctor.
Drive an hour and fifteen minutes south from Guatemala City, down a dusty dirt road on the outskirts of the town of Escuintla. There 11-year-old Blaudi Gomez plays soccer with his friends in front of the wood and corrugated metal shack where he lives with his mother, father and two siblings.
There is electricity, but no running water or sewer in the home. It’s owned by the sugar cane plantation where Blaudi’s 64 year-old father works in the cane fields. His mother Sophia, aged 60, raises corn, sugar cane, chickens, ducks, and snails for the family to eat.
Children congregate at the neighborhood school, even though it is closed for the season. Blaudi is the best student in his class, but this was not always so.
When Visualiza did a screening at the school, they discovered Blaudi suffered from congenital cataracts. They arranged surgery at the clinic in Guatemala City.
Financial support from Vision for the Poor enabled Blaudi’s sight to be restored. Now his future can be as bright as his smile.
While age-related or congenital cataracts and untreated refractive errors are the most common causes of treatable blindness in Guatemala, they are not exclusive.
Undetected glaucoma; retinal detachment; macular degeneration; hypertension; tissue growth over sun-exposed eyes; traumatic accidents; and diabetic complications also steal sight from Guatemalans of all ages.