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Home The Lions Blog Clearing Clouded Vision in Vanuatu
A Closer Look

Clearing Clouded Vision in Vanuatu

Jamie Konigsfeld August 31, 2020
January 2020

Clerence has battled diabetes since she was a baby. Unable to afford medical care, she developed cataracts which seriously impaired her vision. She lives in the gorgeous archipelago nation of Vanuatu, home to lush rainforests, soft sand beaches, and surrounded by turquoise water; however, the 23-year-old woman could no longer see its beauty.

Lions of New Caledonia secured a US$330,043 LCIF SightFirst grant.

In Clerence’s area of Vanuatu, health care resources are often unavailable or unaffordable. Without a diagnosis for many years—something that is all too often the case in Vanuatu—diabetes took a toll on Clerence’s body. She suffered through a series of infections, which led to having her toes amputated. Mobility is now difficult, although a wheelchair helps her get around.

Lions of New Caledonia knew they could improve the situation in Vanuatu with support from Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF). In collaboration with Fred Hollows Foundation New Zealand, Lions of New Caledonia secured a US$330,043 LCIF SightFirst grant to expand and enhance cataract screening and surgery services in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu and Clerence’s hometown.

At an existing eye clinic, the grant made it possible to update old equipment and build a new operating theatre. In addition, Dr. Johnson Kasso is the new, permanent ophthalmologist there at the clinic. Prior to Dr. Kasso, Port Vila did not have an ophthalmologist and operations could only be performed once per year when a team from Fiji visited.

Having a permanent doctor in the area came as an enormous relief to Clerence, who had her cataract removal operation postponed four times due to battling repeated infection. When the new operating theatre opened, Clerence was the first patient to receive an operation. She even sang at the inauguration.

After the surgery, Dr. Kasso checked Clerence’s vision and asked if she could see clearly. Clerence had a smile on her face she couldn’t hide. She shouted, “I kiln I pitim kiln!” – meaning “more than clear!” in her native language. It was a significant and memorable moment for Clerence, Dr. Kasso, and the clinic’s nurses. Clerence says she is “happy tumas” – very happy – to receive the surgery. What was once dark, cloudy, and blurry, became bright, crisp, and clear.

Dr. Johnson Kasso


Clerence (pictured seated) smiles at the clinic’s inauguration ceremony.

LCIF is the grant-making body empowering Lions to create greater impact in their communities and around the world. The vast majority of funding LCIF receives is from Lions. One hundred percent of every donation supports Lions service through LCIF grants and programs.

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Vision is just one cause area supported by LCIF and Campaign 100: LCIF Empowering Service. With financial support from Lions and clubs worldwide, Campaign 100 is empowering Lions to increase service impact in vision, youth, disaster relief, and humanitarian efforts; fight the global epidemic of diabetes; and make important progress in the expanded cause areas of childhood cancer, hunger, and the environment.

Jamie Konigsfeld is the marketing content specialist at Lions Clubs International Foundation.