The last outreach of the year is closing up here in Daru Town, Papua New Guinea, but instead of our teams slowly winding down, this outreach has been packed full from start to finish. When our optometry team arrived at Daru hospital on day one there was already a crowd waiting for them. Since then they’ve consistently seen between 100 and 150 patients a day. It was another busy afternoon when young Aaron* and his grandfather Mark* arrived at the clinic, having heard the team was in town. Mark explained that when Aaron (now 7 years old) had been about three years old, they had realised that there was something different about him. He seemed timid and shy and when asked to fetch things he often returned empty handed. After completing an initial vision test, our volunteer optometrist recognised there was significant visual impairment and conducted a further detailed examination. He couldn’t believe the prescription he was coming up with. The numbers just kept getting larger to the point that of the approximately 2000 pairs of glasses the team were carrying, nothing was as strong as Aaron needed. Many would have just left it at that, but this group of volunteers put their heads together and began to strategise. The dedication of the team was amazing. Optical dispenser, Warren Stark, volunteered to make the glasses when he got home and another couple had connections that could help transport them safely back to Daru. Furthermore, there were children’s frames on the ship, which they believed could be fitted to Aaron before they even left.
That day Aaron was fitted with the best match the team had with them, only about two thirds the strength of the -9 prescription he needed. Admittedly, they were a little large for him, but that didn’t stop the smile that broke across his face as he put them on for the first time. He just kept looking out the window, his face full of amazement and wonder. A few days later Aaron returned to the clinic and Warren selected the perfect size children’s frames for him. The family now is eagerly awaiting their special delivery once the correct prescription has been put into these frames back in Australia. It’s great to know they will be a perfect fit!
Little Aaron is a survivor. He was born a twin but, as is not uncommon in PNG, his brother passed away when he was just a baby. Now he lives with his grandfather while his mum is in the hospital healing from injuries suffered from domestic violence. Life in Papua New Guinea isn’t easy, but Aaron’s life has been changed through the dedication of a team who went above and beyond to improve his sight. And from here on, his life will be just a little fuller. Aaron has gone from seeing clearly only about 30 centimetres in front of him, to having a bright new world open all around him. *Names changed.