Uncovering a Bright, New World for the People in Liberia

Receiving eye care in Liberia can be difficult. There are only six ophthalmologists in the entire country, all working in the capital of Monrovia. Only two of the ophthalmologists regularly perform cataract surgery. As cataracts are the main cause of blindness (60 percent) and severe visual impairment (62 percent) in Liberia, this shortage is causing mass avoidable blindness.

Girl with glasses smiles at camera.
Maron had trouble seeing the blackboard at school before getting glasses from the LCIF-sponsored Liberia Eye Center (LEC).

With a US$486,000 SightFirst grant from LCIF, Lions are aiming to change the reality of those statistics by training more ophthalmologists, creating more opportunities for Liberians to access quality eye care. The project established Liberia’s first ophthalmology residency program at the Liberia Eye Center (LEC), a clinic constructed and equipped through a SightFirst grant in 2016. Thus far, six ophthalmologists have begun training and are providing eye care services, with three more ophthalmologists scheduled to start training in the coming year. These are just a few stories of LEC beneficiaries LCIF and Lions have helped through SightFirst grants:

“I can see”
Reverend Benjamin Banguru, a 64-year-old schoolteacher, couldn’t see clearly enough to identify people and things, or to write clearly on his classroom’s chalkboard. Often struggling with misspellings and poor handwriting, Mr. Banguru became insecure and even started to feel incompetent. He felt he couldn’t properly teach his students anymore.

Upon examination at LEC, Mr. Banguru had a cataract covering the entire lens of his right eye. A short time later, he underwent surgery to have the cataract removed, completely transforming his life. “I can see. The word on the door is exit,” he told his doctors. “I can see your faces. Everything is so bright. It looks like I have entered a different world.” Mr. Banguru shouted with excitement and happiness he just could not contain. He could finally see clearly. He could finally go back to loving his profession and feeling confident in his work.

“I am happy”
Maron, a 14-year-old girl, was having trouble at school. To see the chalkboard, she had to move to the front of the classroom. “But even if I sit in front, I can’t see all the writing,” says Maron. “I have to use my friends’ notebook to complete my notes.” Hearing of the new eye team at LEC, Maron’s mother took her for an examination. The doctor quickly discovered all Maron needed was a simple pair of glasses. After trying on a pair of lenses, Maron was beaming. “I am happy because I can see far away now,” says Maron. “I will not disturb my friends or need to sit in front anymore.”

Musu’s Story
Another little girl, Musu, had been struggling to see for years until doctors at LEC discovered that the lens in her right eye was significantly displaced. Her doctors performed surgery to remove the lens and gave Musu eyeglasses to compensate. With the troublesome lens gone and new eyeglasses, Musu could finally see clearly; she gained 70 percent of her vision back. Excited about her new abilities, she told her doctors she aspires to go to school to become a nurse.

LCIF’s SightFirst program is changing the lives of people in Liberia and across the world. To learn more, visit lionsclubs.org/savevision.