When we first caught sight of Laurinda, she was kneeling on a straw mat with a small child on her lap, looking defeated. She hardly moved while the child squirmed and played with its feet.
We asked Laurinda to tell us about herself; she told us she was about 37 years old (she wasn’t sure of her exact age). She said she had been blind for around four years, and had seven children and one grandchild. She also told us she felt very alone and sad.
“When my husband realised that I was going blind, he decided to split the relationship because I couldn’t do what I did. I couldn’t cook. I couldn’t farm. He then decided to divorce me, so I stay alone now.
“I don’t have a house. I don’t have clothes. I don’t have soap. I can’t fetch water. I can’t go to the farm to grow crops to feed my children. I don’t even have enough money to buy clothes for them.”
Laurinda told us that she now lives with her eldest daughter, Aida. She’s only 14 or 15 and has a one-year-old daughter herself. It’s upon Aida’s young shoulders that a huge weight has fallen. Without help from anyone else, she’s responsible for providing Laurinda and her younger brothers and sisters with the food and water they need to get through each day.
“She is the one who does everything,” Laurinda said of Aida. “She prepares food, she washes my clothes, she cooks for me and fetches water for me. I can’t do anything when my daughter is not around. When she goes to the farm, I don’t do anything; I just sit.”
When asked if she has any friends that could help her, a wry smile appeared briefly on Laurinda’s face before she replied: “I did once. But when they notice that someone is sick, and there is nothing they can get from them, they disappear. Back then they could get things from me, but now they can’t.”
After sitting with Laurinda, we walked with her to a nearby well, Aida leading her tentatively by the hand, children strapped to both women’s backs. It was during this walk for such a basic necessity as water that it really hit home how fragile Laurinda’s life has become because of her blindness.
During our chat she said she keeps asking herself: “What will happen to me?” It’s heartbreaking to know that this is what occupies her mind as she sits silently with her youngest child on her lap. But Laurinda’s fate hadn’t yet been decided. There was real hope for her, Aida and the rest of her family, thanks to the generosity of the people who support Sightsavers’ life-changing work.
Watch the video below as Laurinda has surgery to remove her cataracts and can finally see her family again.
When we ask Laurinda how she feels, now that a miracle has been performed and she has her sight back, she says: “What makes me happy now that I’m cured is that I can work and go where I could not before. I can see my children and my grandchildren, who I couldn’t see in the past.
“It makes me happy to see the people who treated me. I want to encourage you to continue you doing your work. Don’t stop, because it helps worried people like me.”
The first time we met Laurinda, we saw a woman who was visibly sad, isolated from the rest of her community and reliant on her teenage daughter at all times.
Now, we find Laurinda sitting in the shade of Aida’s house, surrounded by many members of her family. She’s no longer a morose figure who stares constantly at the ground and struggles to interact with her baby daughter, Telma.
With her sight restored, Laurinda is smiling and laughing, chatting with those sat around her and busy using a knife to chop tomatoes, a task that would have been impossible before her surgery.
We ask how things have changed since Dr Anselmo performed cataract surgery on both of her eyes. Laurinda says: “Now that I can see, my whole life has improved. Before I could not even feed my children. I could have missed and put food on their nose. Now I can get it straight in her mouth.
“I can grow crops and farm again to feed my family. When my friends invite me to work, I can go and help them. Now that I have my sight back, my family and I will be happy. Now the world awaits me.”