For many people in developed countries, the growth of cataracts clouding their vision means a trip to the ophthalmologist and outpatient surgery. But for those we serve — who lack access to medical care — a condition such as cataracts can impact their entire life, causing them to lose more than just their sight. For Toffa, losing her sight meant losing her independence. 

A Reason to Dance

Spirited Toffa is unsure of how old she is, but her best guess is 80 years old. In her long life, she’s planted crops, cleaned, cooked, and raised generations of children. She’s always been strong and busy — until she lost her sight. After developing cataracts, Toffa could only spend her days longing to get back to work in her family’s fields.

“When I was able to see, I could plant a lot of things,” Toffa said. “I could plant peanuts and corn. I could plant peppers. These are things I use to do.” 

Losing her sight dramatically changed Toffa’s life. She was always very independent, but because of cataracts blocking her vision, not only was she not able to plant any more, she was no longer able to do anything by herself. During this time, Toffa had become totally dependent on her grandson, Jean, making her feel like a burden. 

“It hurts me a lot that she can’t see,” Jean said about the woman who raised him. “She’s my father, she’s my mother, and she’s all my life.” 

Toffa’s family was searching for a way to heal her eyes when they heard about Mercy Ships. Jean brought his grandmother to the Africa Mercy® f to be examined by the volunteer doctors. Soon, Toffa was scheduled for an operation to remove the cataract from her right eye. 

“The cataract is quite a thick lens; these patients really can’t see anything,” Dr. Ralph Crew, a volunteer surgeon onboard the Africa Mercy, said. “By removing and replacing it with a new clear plastic lens that will stay in their eye for the rest of their life, we can change people’s lives very quickly.”

Before her surgery, Toffa and the other patients waiting for their operations were entertained with songs and dancing. But Toffa refused to join in the celebration — insisting on waiting until she could see again. 

After a half-hour procedure and a day of rest, the big moment finally arrived. Slowly Toffa’s bandages were removed, and as she opened her eyes, the first thing she saw was her grandson, smiling at her. Realizing she was seeing Jean once again after years of darkness, she began to dance in celebration! 

“I can see everyone, I can see everything,” Toffa said. “If you opened my heart and went inside, you’d see it’s full of joy. Now I can say, ‘Come with me, come with me, let’s go to the field!’”

Toffa is only one example of the life-changing miracles that occur thanks to the compassionate giving of our partners and the tireless work of our volunteers. And with the highly anticipated first field service of our new ship, the Global Mercy, coming soon, even more families will have the opportunity to find hope where there was once only darkness and pain.   

Join us as a volunteer in our mission of hope and healing or learn how you can partner with us to help others like Toffa.  

The need is great but hope and mercy are greater!