Dunya* (12) told her mother, “I thought the whole world looked like that”. She had never seen the world clearly, having been born with poor eyesight.
Her struggles to see went unnoticed for years. Dunya thought it was normal to see blurry figures and very little detail in the distance. She never complained to her mother or the teacher about her sight. She was too young to realize it was abnormal.
Dunya’s mother often told her daughter not to squint her eyes and frown when looking at things. She was worried it would make the vision worse and that it was unbecoming a girl. Little did she know that her little girl was struggling to see for so many years as Dunya simply did not know there was something about which she needed to complain.
Two months ago, though, Dunya’s Mathematics teacher, Lamia, recognized the signs of poor eyesight in Dunya when classes resumed for the new term. She immediately told Dunya’s mother. Her mother took her to the doctor. The first doctor they consulted advised them that Dunya had to have corrective surgery immediately; otherwise, she would lose her eyesight. Dunya’s mother fainted at these words, and Dunya became distraught. They consulted other doctors only to hear the same urgent warning that Dunya needed surgery.
Dunya comes from a very poor family consisting of her mother and three siblings. Following her father’s death in a car accident two years ago, the family fell into a large amount of debt and poverty. The family does not have any social support from the government. They would not even afford a place to live if some charitable people did not allow them to live in the small apartment they currently occupy for free. Dunya’s mother says that she mostly depends on the charity of others to survive. Given all these problems, even at age 12, Dunya knew as well as her mother that their family could not afford to pay for any surgery despite its urgency. This reality broke her heart as she needed to see to learn.
Dunya’s father had valued education, although he had never had the opportunity to pursue an education for himself as he too was from a poor family. He dreamed for his children to have a better future and lives generally, and he had big ambitions for Dunya. He hoped that she could become a doctor one day. Dunya’s mother shared, “He (her husband) didn’t study, and so he suffered and experienced debt and poverty. He always said that our children must study. The most important thing is the education of our children. The need he and his father before him experienced, he didn’t want them (their children) to experience it.”
Despite her youth, Dunya, who has a strong character, has been greatly influenced by his dad’s words and wishes. Her mother shared, “You would not believe me if I tell you. Before the operation, Dunya brought me her examination result card and told me that she only failed in one class. Even with that one failed class, she said she would make her dad’s dream come true. She told me that she would work very hard, and once she finished high school, her father would come back. I told her, where is your dad? She told me that her dad went and left us so that she could reach the final grade of high school and succeed and get the certificate; he would return. I explained to her that the deceased could not return to life. She told me that when we (often) go to my father’s grave, and I see you cry, I don’t believe it. My father will come back when I get the certificate and make his dream come true.”
Dunya’s mother, who has studied only until the sixth grade of primary school, also appreciates the importance of education. She is very supportive of her children’s education and has her husband’s wishes sealed in her heart to make her children complete their studies.
On the day of the scheduled surgery, Dunya and her mother did not even go to the hospital. They did not have the funds needed to cover the costs of the procedure, so they knew they would be turned away if they went. World Vision Iraq’s caseworker for the Japan Platform funded project in Mosul, Noor, heard about Dunya’s plight from a friend. She could not ignore a child in the project area in such dire need, she met with Dunya and her mother and heard the sad story. Noor then coordinated with her World Vision colleagues and ensured Dunya would receive the needed medical and psychosocial support in Mosul. With the funding provided by the Japan Platform through World Vision, Dunya soon had her surgery and even got a new pair of glasses which helps her see better. Noor, her caseworker, also continues to provide her psychosocial support.
Today, with the help of the surgery and the special glasses made for her, Dunya can see well and start new. She shared her experience of seeing, “I could not see well before, but now it is good. I am (now) also comfortable with my glasses. At first, when I got the glasses, I felt dizzy, but then I got used to it. (Before) I could not see the teacher’s board, but now I can. I can see now. I see things in the distance even. Before, I could not see anything that was far away.”
Noor is following up closely with Dunya and is giving her psychosocial support sessions in the comfort of her home. Her mother shared Dunya’s change after the operation “She is feeling happier and better now.”
Dunya is indeed happier now. She likes her school, her teachers, and she especially loves Arabic classes as she enjoys reading stories. Her favourite story is Sleeping Beauty. When Dunya grows up, she would like to become a teacher.
*Name has been changed to protect the identity.