Lilia © Photo Courtesy of Seva Canada
In 2016, four-year-old Zachary in Nova Scotia set an ambitious goal to raise $15,000 to fund 100 cataract surgeries for children in low-income countries through Seva Canada. He embarked on his fundraising campaign after being diagnosed and treated for cataracts earlier that year. Grateful for receiving high-quality eye care in Canada, Zachary wanted to pay it forward. He began his fundraising by setting aside some of his chore money in a jar labelled ‘for the kids that can’t get cataract surgery.’ With help from his family, including his younger sister Rosalie, he hosted by-donation adult and children’s yoga classes, BBQs, and car washes. By late 2019, Zachary was halfway to reaching his fundraising goal!
Around the same time in Ontario, a dog named Leroy was slowly going blind and underwent cataract surgery. “We are so lucky in Canada that we have so many people that can help us. Our family was so excited and thankful that our dog could see again that we thought it would be a great idea to give the same opportunity to children,” said Carolynn, Leroy’s human guardian.
Through her research, Carolynn learned about Seva Canada and Zachary’s missions. She was so motivated by Zachary’s story that she generously donated the remaining half of Zachary’s goal, enough to help him reach his target of restoring the sight of 100 kids in need!
“I saw your story and how you were so thankful and wanted to help other children too,” wrote Carolynn to Zachary. “You inspired me to act on this, I thought if a little boy can do this much, I want to help you too. It feels good to help others!! Keep reaching out and find others that need your help, and continue to make the world a better place.”
Colleen, Zachary’s mom, was at work when she found out about Carolynn’s gift. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. To be honest, at first I thought there must be some mistake. Once I confirmed the donation was real, I was beyond grateful and shocked that a stranger would donate so much on Zachary’s behalf!” said Colleen.
Zachary and Rosalie both responded with “wow!” According to Colleen, “Zachary was very aware of how much the donation meant, he was surprised and happy one person could donate so much. He was so happy his goal of helping 100 children came true. It was amazing for him and Rosie to see what one idea and many small actions can lead to. I’m forever grateful to Carolynn for helping me teach my children to dream big, set big goals and go after them, because one small idea can lead to amazing possibilities.”
The funds raised by Zachary helped children like Lilia, a toddler in the poor, rural area of Mwaro Province in central Burundi. When Lilia was six months old, her parents knew something was very wrong with her vision. She couldn’t follow her parents’ movements with her eyes, cried constantly, and didn’t want to eat. Lilia’s parents were devastated. They couldn’t afford to travel to Bujumbura, the capital, for treatment, nor could they afford the cost of Lilia’s eye care.
The family was relieved to learn about a nearby Community Eye Centre (CEC) that could examine and diagnose Lilia. At the CEC, Lilia was diagnosed with congenital cataract in both eyes. At just eight months old, Lilia was transported to the hospital, underwent sight-restoring surgery, and was given her first pair of glasses. The doctor advised the family that Lilia would need to come back for regular follow-up visits and new glasses as she continues to grow — just like Zachary in Canada.
“For many children in low-income countries, blindness and visual impairment means poverty and loss of opportunity. Millions of children could see tomorrow if only they had access to care. When you give a child the power of sight, you are also giving them access to education, employment, and the foundation for a better life, full of potential. We are so proud to be a part of Zachary’s sight story!” said Penny Lyons, Seva Canada’s Executive Director.
Today, Lilia is a happy 18-month-old toddler. “Now she plays with other children and can walk by herself! She has gained weight and no longer cries like she used to. I hope she will be able to go to school like other children!” said Lilia’s grateful parents.
Keep dreaming big and making the world a better place, Zachary and Rosalie!
Seva Canada is a charity whose mission is to restore sight and prevent blindness in low- and middle-income countries.