Jaonah © Courtesy of Seva Canada | Give the gift of sight
Fifteen-year-old Jaonah is a bright light with a big smile and boundless energy. He is eager to head off to school in the morning and happy to return home and play soccer with his friends. But just a few years ago, this wasn’t the case.
When Jaonah was just three years old, his vision started to fade. He got older, the blackboard at school, the soccer ball, and his friends’ and family’s faces got harder and harder to see.
His parents hoped beyond hope that there was something they could do for their son.
They worked long, hard days farming the vanilla fields of Sambava, Madagascar, earning just enough to feed their five children and maintain their two-room home. They couldn’t afford to take Jaonah to a doctor, and even if they could, they didn’t think his poor vision could be treated.
By eight years old, Jaonah had completely lost his sight. His mother had to stop working and stay home to care for him, putting even more financial strain on the family. Jaonah spent his days isolated from his friends, depressed and unable to attend school. “When I was walking, I couldn’t see. It was really scary,” recalled Jaonah.
“My biggest worry? That he would die,” his father shared in a soft voice.
And they were right to worry; researchers have reported that children who are blind are more likely to die in childhood than those with good vision, especially in low-income countries.
But when things were at their darkest, a glimmer of hope appeared. His parents heard about a Seva Canada-sponsored screening camp being held nearby. That moment—made possible by caring Canadian donors—would change everything.
At the screening camp, Jaonah was diagnosed with cataracts. He and his mother were transported to the nearest eye hospital run by Seva Canada’s local partners in Madagascar, where he received sight-restoring surgery, paid for by Canadian donors.
When his bandages were removed, Jaonah’s face lit up with excitement as he saw his mother clearly for the first time in years. At his checkup the next day, he thanked the doctor and said, “I can’t believe the beautiful stars in the night sky!”
“Globally, four out of 10 children who are blind don’t have to be—their eye condition could have been prevented or treated. It’s completely unnecessary that any child should lose their sight due to a solvable problem,” said Liz Brant, Seva Canada Executive Director (seva.ca).
“These are kids who are full of potential and have everything it takes to pursue their hopes and dreams—but there are barriers in their way. Our donors are there to remove some of those barriers—to give these kids back their sight, so they can get on with their lives. When kids can see, they have higher self-esteem, they are safer, and they can go to school. Seva Canada donors give children, just like Jaonah, the eye care they need, so they can see clearly and realize their own potential.”
And Jaonah didn’t just get back his childhood. He was able to go back to school, laying the foundation for a full and independent life.
“He’s top of his class now!” his mother shared with joyful relief and pride.
“I want to be mayor of our town and help our community,” Jaonah shared, his eyes sparkling with confidence and determination.
Head to seva.ca/see-their-potential to learn more.
Seva Canada is a charity whose mission is to restore sight and prevent blindness in low- and middle-income countries.