Taveuni’s gift of eye sight

Marika Momo gets his eye checked by Rotary volunteer Doctor volunteer Doctor Greg Booth during the Rotary Club of Taveuni's Eye Project clinic. picture SOPHIE RALULU

The magical island of Taveuni, has nature on its side.

While some can only dream of reaching its shores, others have been there to witness for themselves its beauty defined by its emerald green forests, palm lined shorelines, cascading waterfalls and the endemic tagimoucia blooms, to name a few.

For 13 years, men, women and children from all over Fiji have been flocking to the Garden Island partially or fully blinded and hoping to turn a new page of life.

This year, some boarded buses, then hopped on a ferry to get there.

Some travelled for more than two days.

Others took an 18-hour ride on the five star inter-island vessel, Lomaiviti Princess V.

In the past, the long trip to Taveuni has brought back the gift of sight to completely blind eyes while to some -the rectification of years of indistinct vision.

This year is no different.

Emi Tinai, was all smiles the moment she opened her eyes on Tuesday, October 2, 2018.

“I can clearly see again and I am on top of the world,” she said.

Just two days earlier, her vision was fuzzy, a condition she had been living with for a decade, making her daily life an unwanted challenge.

However, a visit to Taveuni Hospital under the auspices of the Rotary Club of Taveuni’s Eye Project (TEP) 2018, has changed that.

And the widow who once struggled with years of blurred vision now has her sight fully restored.

“Being able to see is a gift of life. For many years, I didn’t fully enjoy that gift but now I can clearly see, something that has eluded me for long,” Emi said.

“I am a widow. I live alone and run a small canteen, which has been a challenge for years. Sometimes I give the wrong change. Now I will be able to do business better and look after myself well.”

In its 13th year running, the TEP has already conducted surgeries for varying eye conditions suffered by around 3500 Fijians – free of charge.

In doing so surgeons, general practitioners, anaesthetists and locals gather annually and volunteer their time and energy, making the TEP the country’s biggest free and most sustainable eye project.

This year alone, around 350 people like Emi were treated on the Garden Island after being referred from various eye clinics around the country mainly for cataracts and pterygiums.

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