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With Cataract Surgery Comes Opportunity

In the summer of 2013, Elias and his family came to the Lelt Foundation in crisis. He and his wife Medhanit and their two young sons were living in a one-room hut in the outskirts of the city, with no electricity or running water. They moved there out of desperation – with suddenly no income to support the family, their situation became critical.

Medhanit stayed home with the children while Elias worked as a security guard at a factory. He struggled to keep his job, however, because over the years he had been losing his eyesight and was nearly blind. Bilateral cataracts had been slowly eating away at his vision since he was a child.

Elias was born in a small village in the Oromia region of Ethiopia, the oldest of five children. His parents were farmers. Their village had no school, but his parents wanted him to have an education. So Elias walked to the next village to attend classes. He was in fourth grade when he began to notice he could not see the chalkboard clearly or read his textbooks without a struggle.

His uncle took him into Addis Ababa to see a doctor, who prescribed glasses. For several years, they enabled him to see well enough to attend school. By 10th grade, however, his glasses became useless. His options for treatment were very limited at that time. The doctor gave him a choice to make: either stop reading and writing, or go blind. So, Elias left school, never to return.

He got a job working as a stock boy for a publishing company in the city and eventually became a security guard for a factory. When he was 42, he met Medhanit and they soon had two sons, Asaf and Kenean. Because of his compromised vision, Elias was fired from his position. No other companies would hire him. No employer had use, it seemed, for a blind man. When he came to Lelt in 2013, his family was growing; Medhanit was pregnant with their daughter Fineyet. They soon would be a family of five without any means of support.

Their oldest son Asaf joined Lelt's Child Sponsorship Program and began receiving daily, nutritious meals and after-school tutoring. The family also took home monthly food rations and basic household supplies. With the crisis at home abated, Elias began receiving medical care through Lelt's partner clinic. Last year, doctors removed the cataracts he had lived with nearly his entire life. This simple procedure – one that is so common in the USA that we take it for granted – changed his life immeasurably.

Elias is now sees without glasses, something he hasn't been able to do since he was a young child. At the age of 62, he feels he has a new lease on life, his vision no longer an obstacle to employment. He has enrolled in Lelt's Job Creation Program and is looking for a new opportunity, eager to work again. For the first time in decades, he can see his future clearly.

Elias and his son Asaf, at Lelt's Community Center

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