Clearing Clouded Vision in Vanuatu

Clerence has battled diabetes since she was a baby. Unable to afford medical care, she developed cataracts which seriously impaired her vision. She lives in the gorgeous archipelago nation of Vanuatu, home to lush rainforests, soft sand beaches, and surrounded by turquoise water; however, the 23-year-old woman could no longer see its beauty.

In Clerence’s area of Vanuatu, healthcare resources are often unavailable or unaffordable. Without a diagnosis for many years—something that is all too often the case in Vanuatu—diabetes took a toll on Clerence’s body. She suffered through a series of infections, which led to having her toes amputated. Mobility is now difficult, although a wheelchair helps her get around.

Lions of New Caledonia knew they could improve the situation in Vanuatu with support from Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF). In collaboration with Fred Hollows Foundation New Zealand, Lions of New Caledonia secured a US$330,043 LCIF SightFirst grant to expand and enhance cataract screening and surgery services in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu and Clerence’s hometown.

At an existing eye clinic, the grant made it possible to update old equipment and build a new operating theatre. In addition, Dr. Johnson Kasso is the new, permanent ophthalmologist there at the clinic. Prior to Dr. Kasso, Port Vila did not have an ophthalmologist and operations could only be performed once per year when a team from Fiji visited.

Having a permanent doctor in the area came as an enormous relief to Clerence, who had her cataract removal operation postponed four times due to battling repeated infection. When the new operating theatre opened, Clerence was the first patient to receive an operation. She even sang at the inauguration.

Clerence (pictured seated) smiles at the clinic’s inauguration ceremony.

After the surgery, Dr. Kasso checked Clerence’s vision and asked if she could see clearly. Clerence had a smile on her face she couldn’t hide. She shouted, “I kiln I pitim kiln!” – meaning “more than clear!” in her native language. It was a significant and memorable moment for Clerence, Dr. Kasso, and the clinic’s nurses. Clerence says she is “happy tumas” – very happy – to receive the surgery. What was once dark, cloudy, and blurry, became bright, crisp, and clear.

To learn how projects like this receive LCIF funding — and how you can contribute through Campaign 100 — visit

Dr. Johnson Kasso