Seeing Is Believing
The facts: Very few people in Cambodia wear glasses. Many of the weavers have complained that the tonal patterns are too difficult to weave because of the lack of contrast. At least one weaver has stopped working for the NGO because of eye problems.
The donor and I suspected that the lack of glasses was due to poverty and not need or desire. Therefore I found another NGO in Phnom Penh, the Children’s Surgical Center, who provides free ophthalmology services to Cambodians.
At 5:50 am on Tuesday, a van of 15 employees ventured into Phnom Penh from Takeo. On the bus were the weavers, the Village Chief, managerial staff, the family members who help the weavers tie the ikat and two grandchildren who desperately wanted to see Phnom Penh. I was already in Phnom Penh (thanks to my own medical needs) and therefore met up with everyone at CSC around 8am to register for eye exams.
First, the weavers looked at the eye chart. Unlike the charts back in the States which are adorned with letters, these charts were littered with the letter “E” in many different directions. The patient covered one eye then was asked to indicate which way the prongs of the “E” pointed. After going as low on the chart as possible, they switched and completed the test looking out of the other eye. Thus, the first phase of the exam was completed.
Next we waited and each weaver was asked to approach the machines that look like some sort of flying apparatus out of a sci-fi movie. You know, the ones that click click click as the doctor asks, “Is A or [click click click] B clearer? A or B?” After this test, most of the team required eye drops, 4 people were prescribed glasses and two were recommended for surgery.
The surgery will have to wait for a future visit, but the glasses were made nearby. We dropped everyone who didn’t need glasses off at Wat Phnom to relax. Then Sokchea and I took the group of 4 to the clinic to have glasses cut.
Around 3pm, everyone boarded the van and headed back to Takeo. It was a long day, but a successful one. And now, we can rest assured knowing that everyone has had an eye exam, proper treatment and is equipped to execute any and all patterns!