Into the Light: Photo Documentary for Dutch Eye Care Foundation

Photo of people in Ghana, Africa by Marielle van Uitert
© 2010 Marielle van Uitert All rights reserved.

To see the world around us is truly a gift–to see the face of a child, to see a flower,
to see a bird in flight, to read, to see in order to work and function in our daily lives…..

Most of us take for granted that our sight will remain with us throughout our lives and that if we have a problem with our eye sight, we merely go to the eye doctor and our sight will be restored. But for the millions in developing countries, it is a gift that has been taken away due to a range of eye conditions related to poor diet, poor hygiene, a natural aging process, or the lack of good medical facilities. They are eye conditions that affect young and old alike and most conditions are treatable—from something as simple as putting on a pair of glasses to the number one cause for needing surgery—cataracts (an eye problem which can cause blindness). For some, it is too late!

I was asked to go on an assignment to the upper east region of Ghana, Africa for the Dutch Eye Care Foundation to photographically document and feature some of the people who have cataracts or debilitating eye conditions. The Eye care Foundation, which also runs programs in Nepal and Cambodia, tries their best to help those who are blind or nearly blind and gives them hope, self esteem and a future.

I would like you to join me in meeting Isa, Latifah, Abbul, Mary and Azara.

~ Meet Isa ~

Photo portraid of Isa, Ghana, Africa by Marielle van Uitert
© 2010 Marielle van Uitert All rights reserved.

Name: Isa, Farmer
Age: 60
Condition: Cataracts

Isa travels 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Salaga to Bawku in order to get an eye operation. Isa is blind. He is dependent on his daughter Latifah who lovingly holds his hand during the long trip. Over the past five months, he has gradually lost his vision to cataracts in both eyes.

Isa is a farmer and can no longer work. His six children and his brothers now work the land because he cannot tell the difference between weeds and vegetation.

Photo of Isa & Latifah holding hands, Ghana, Africa by Marielle van Uitert

© 2010 Marielle van Uitert All Rights Reserved.

Latifah holds her father’s hand.

Photo portraid of Isa following eye surgery, Ghana, Africa by Marielle van Uitert

© 2010 Marielle van Uitert All Rights Reserved.

Isa following surgery.

Photo portraid of Isa getting eye exam, Ghana, Africa by Marielle van Uitert

© 2010 Marielle van Uitert All Rights Reserved.

Isa gets examined.

“I wish I can work on the land again.”

Isa’s operation was succesful on one eye and he returned after a couple of weeks to be operated on the other eye. He can now walk on his own and work his land. After the first operation he was so happy because he could see his daughter Latifah again!

~ Meet Latifah ~

Photo portraid of Latifah, Ghana, Africa by Marielle van Uitert
© 2010 Marielle van Uitert All rights reserved.

Name: Latifah, Daughter of Isa
Age: 15

“I am very worried about my father. He cannot see anymore, so my three sisters and two brothers are now working on the land, while I help my mother with the cooking. I hope he can see after the operation because my father is a farmer and his life is on the land”.

~ Meet Hatti Abbul ~

Photo portraid of Haddi Abbul, Ghana, Africa by Marielle van Uitert

© 2010 Marielle van Uitert All rights reserved.

Name: Haddi Abbul, School boy
Age: 15
Condition: Corneal Trauma

Haddi was treated by Dr. Mohammed at the Garu Eye Clinic. He suffers from a severe corneal trauma to his left eye, which if not treated immediately, will cause blindness. He had arrived just in time!

“I wish I can play football with my friends again and go to school without having pain all of the time.”

Photo portraid of Haddi at eye clinic, Ghana, Africa by Marielle van Uitert

© 2010 Marielle van Uitert All Rights Reserved.

Haddi at the clinic.

Photo portraid of Haddi getting eye exam, Ghana, Africa by Marielle van Uitert

© 2010 Marielle van Uitert All Rights Reserved.

Haddi gets examined.

We wished Abbul well, as the operation would not take place until after we departed the country.

~ Meet Mary ~

Photo portraid of Mary Kelibilla, Ghana, Africa by Marielle van Uitert

© 2010 Marielle van Uitert All rights reserved.

Name: Mary Kelibilla, Trader of Fruits & Vegetables
Age: 81
Condition: Cataracts


Mary travels from Pusiga to Garu to be treated for her blindness. For the past year she has been near complete blindness and is not able to see her grandchildren. Her husband died and six of her seven children live in the south of Ghana. She feels isolated and is worried about her future. “My children send me food, but I want to trade fruit and vegetables on the market again and not feel so dependent on my family and friends.”

Photo of Mary Kelibilla following eye surgery, Ghana, Africa by Marielle van Uitert

© 2010 Marielle van Uitert All Rights Reserved.

Mary following surgery.

“I wish I can see my grandchildren again.”

The surgery did not help Mary. It could not prevend her from going totally blind because her eyes were too weak.

~ Meet Azara ~

Photo portraid of Azara Adamu, Ghana, Africa by Marielle van Uitert
© 2010 Marielle van Uitert All rights reserved.

Name: Azara Adamu, Farmer
Age:40
Condition: Kissing Pterygium

Azara, mother of five children and second wife, travels from Tempane to Garu to get her eye surgery. She waited too long to visit the clinic and her mucous membrane is rapidly growing over her cornea. It will take several operations for the rest of her lifetime in order to prevent total blindness.

For the past two years, Azara has been in pain and both her eyes are irritated and itching. She is worried because she cannot provide her two youngest children with sufficient care. She is the second wife of her husband who has to divide his attention between two big families.

Photo portraid of Azara getting eye exam, Ghana, Africa by Marielle van Uitert

© 2010 Marielle van Uitert All Rights Reserved.

Azara gets examined.

“I wish I can work on the land again and be a better mother for my children.”

Azara had her operation to prevent total blindness and can see a little bit better. She is happy because she can be a better mother now and do a better job on the farm.

So many of my documentaries have an affect on me, but this one affected me very deeply. The joy and gratefullness of these people astounded me. Even though they are nearly blind, they never complained, and I know from my own experience that an eye operation is not painless! I am a photographer who sees them with healthy eyes. Through my eyes and through the eye of the camera I looked at them, knowing that they can only hear me. Sometimes I just had to put my camera away so I could hold their hands. I even danced with them. It was an amazing, mutually respectful meeting of our hearts and minds.

by Marielle van Uitert

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