Dozens of Romanian children went through testing last weekend. The young residents of several remote villages in the Carpathian Mountains had their eyes examined for the first time. Soon many of them won’t be able to believe their newly treated eyes.
Romania has a population of more than 19 million. Over 35% of children there are at risk of poverty and social isolation—the highest percentage in the entire 27-nation European Union. Child poverty is most prevalent in the country’s rural communities, where one in two children lives in poverty.
The charitable organization Casa Buna, or Good House, arranged the eye tests in Nucsoara. That area is made up of several small villages. Many children in the impoverished rural community had never visited an ophthalmologist.
Jesus spoke often of blindness, both physical and spiritual. He healed the blind too. But He always emphasized that true sight involves seeing and following Him as the Light of the world and that “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Valeriu Nicolae founded Casa Buna in 2007. He comes from a poor Roma community himself. He says poor eyesight can have a serious, negative impact on children’s educational outcomes.
“Teachers think the kids hate to read, but in fact, they hate to read because they cannot read because their eyesight is poor,” Nicolae says. “Kids who cannot read because their eyes are really bad . . . get fed up, and they drop out.”
Casa Buna supports more than 300 children and their families. The volunteer organization emphasizes encouraging the children to pursue education.
Casa Buna’s team arrived in Nucsoara, 120 miles northwest of Romania’s capital of Bucharest, more than a year ago. Volunteers visit every two weeks, bringing aid to 94 children and their families.
“It was the start of the pandemic, and practically none of these kids had internet or computers. We put computers in all of their houses, made sure they have internet,” Nicolae says, adding, “and they need to stay online to continue their education.”
Mioara Marinescu was the volunteer ophthalmologist at Saturday’s event. “Given that out of 30 children tested, 20 needed glasses, I think such ophthalmic caravans are needed in as many villages in the country as possible,” she says. “Unfortunately in our country, children do not receive education or health equally.”
The importance of testing children’s eyes isn’t limited to needing eyeglasses. Amblyopia is a condition known as “lazy eye.” The problem affects one to five percent of children worldwide. Missed cases can lead to long-term problems—and “limit access to certain professions in adulthood” according to Marinescu. While examining Nucsoara’s youngsters, she found three with the disorder.
Dozens of volunteers participated in the eye-screening event. The volunteers organized activities and games to entice as many children as possible to come. Casa Buna also brought the youngsters gifts for International Children’s Day, held on June 1.
“We’ll do [eye testing] this year in nine villages. We hope to make anywhere between 600 to 1,000 pairs of glasses,” says Nicolae. His tireless campaigning for better children’s education has won international awards.
Marinescu believes every person deserves at least access to education and healthcare—“regardless of the geographical area in which we are born.”
(A girl adjusts testing glasses during an eyesight examination performed by volunteers working with humanitarian organization Casa Buna in Nucsoara, Romania, on Saturday, May 29, 2021. AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)