Can you imagine a boyhood without bugs or soccer matches—without trees to climb or clouds to watch? Dreige and Eddy, now 14 years old, were once two boys who were robbed of these simple delights due to preventable blindness caused by cataracts. Their families did not have the money for surgery, so poverty forced the two boys to spend their young years in a shroud of darkness—cut off from the adventures and wonders of boyhood.
Not the only ones…
Dreige and Eddy aren’t the only ones who have lived this reality. About 80% of the world’s visual impairment is avoidable. According to the World Health Organization, modern medical treatments could potentially restore vision to more than 12 million children around the world.* In essence, they are suffering from an affliction for which the world already has a cure.
Dreige and Eddy were blessed—Mercy Ships brought this cure to their doorsteps. The two boys met on the Africa Mercy’s dock in Pointe Noire, Congo. From that moment forward, they were inseparable. In only 20 minutes for each boy, the skilled hands of volunteer ophthalmologists restored their sight.
The moment the bandages were removed, the two friends saw the world for the first time! The surgery restored more than their vision—it gave them another chance at childhood.
A peaceful oasis
Today, in the shade of a baobab tree—a peaceful oasis amid the busy city streets of Pointe Noire—the two boys sit side-by-side in plastic chairs. They are talking about the birds in the sky, the bugs in the grass, and all the other things that they can now see. Even though a few weeks have passed since their surgeries, Dreige and Eddy are still reveling in a miracle that most of us take for granted—the miracle of sight.
“It was so sad and difficult for me,” Eddy says. “I thought that I was a washed-up product, but God told me that my life was not over and that He would heal me.”
Traces of pain linger
Traces of the pain once felt by their families still linger. Dreige’s mother, Michelle, and Eddy’s mother, Edith, recall their battle (as single mothers) against insurmountable financial burdens and countless medical dead-ends. Dreige’s father, disgusted with his son’s “flaw,” abandoned them. Michelle says, “I started to say in my prayers every day that I felt breathless. I did not have enough money. I did not know anybody who could help. What could I do?”
While their mothers talk, Dreige looks over Eddy’s shoulder as Eddy flips through his camera’s photos. The boys laugh and point at the screen whenever they see a photo of themselves. His mother remarks, “Now he calls me outside to look at bugs, and from the house I can hear him laughing at the sight of birds, cars, and people.”
Charged with promise
Today, the air is charged with promise, and the boys are eager to talk about the future. “Me? I do not want to be president,” Dreige says. “I want to be a pastor. I want to save people’s souls just as God through Mercy Ships came to set mine free.”
“I want to be a simple man,” Eddy says, after reflection. “My mission is to help other people as God has helped me. God has given me my life.”
Returning to school
Since Dreige and Eddy will now be able to see writing on the chalkboard, they will return to school. Eddy’s mom has hired a tutor to teach him to read and write, so he can catch up with his peers.
And there’s the wonderful new world of sports. Eddy has even joined a soccer club. A big smile crosses his face when he talks about it. He and Dreige grab a ball and begin to play the universal game of “keep-away” on the sandy lot. Soon, children from the neighborhood join in, and a full-scale match ensues.
The miracle of these boys finally being able to be…well, just boys…is breathtaking. A simple cataract surgery has restored vision and hope to Dreige and Eddy—and given them back the joy of boyhood.