The Little Boy in the Red Shirt

Juan was visibly nervous, tense. I could almost see him thinking, “Why have I been singled out to be alone in the classroom with my teacher, the principal and my mother? Am I in trouble?” He was probably wondering if it had something to do with the two gringos who showed up this morning and were out on the playground with the other students. And, there was that book. The one about Helping Children Who Are Blind that was sent to his teacher last spring. “This must have something to do with my vision. I know I don’t see like my friends.”

Every year on our trips to Ixcán, Guatemala, one patient stands out in my mind. This year it is “The Little Boy in the Red Shirt”, Juan.  Due to an early childhood infection, Juan had considerable damage to his retinas and his vision was reduced to about 20/160. He was handicapped in the classroom, having to sit very near the chalkboard, yet still struggling to see his lessons. Reading was another problem. He could do it, but with great effort. It took Juan more time to complete his work, but his teacher showed us that his writing was very neat and done carefully. He is a good student. This demonstrated to us that he is a smart boy. In spite of his visual limitations, Juan has the patience to take the time to do his work correctly.

What happened next relieved his mind that he hadn’t been singled out today for punishment, but to receive help with his vision. When the gringos came into the classroom they had some gizmos to play with that helped him to see the chalkboard and to read more easily. Indeed, the binoculars Dr. Closson gave him brought a smile to his face as he called off letters and pictures the principal was pointing to on the wall. And, with the hand magnifier he noticed an immediate improvement for his close work tasks. The damage to Juan’s retinas when he was very young means his sight will always be compromised. However, he has a good mind, full of curiosity and a determination to learn despite his handicap. With the help of his new low vision aids and his understanding teachers, Juan’s potential in school just shot up.

Donations to Enfoque Ixcán create stories like Juan’s. With your generous support more people will have their lives changed through clearer, more comfortable, vision.

– Scott Pike