7. Rafael, Mexico 1987

Each day The Shoe Shine Man kept his eyes downcast as he polished his customers’ shoes. Rafael had been born with a cleft lip and was deeply ashamed of his life-long deformity.


Watch Dreige and Eddy’s story here

Once blind, now both Dreige and Eddy can see to play soccer. The 14-year-old mates, who met for the first time at the Mercy Ships screening for cataract patients, had each suffered a lifetime of blindness. Their instant friendship went deep. After a lifetime of blindness, it only took 20 minutes for each boy to have his sight restored. The moment the bandages were removed, the two friends saw the world for the first time!

A few weeks later, they sat under the shade of a Baobab tree they talked about the birds in the sky and all the other things they could now see. Then they grabbed a ball and began to play. Soon, children from the neighbourhood joined in and a full-scale match ensued.

The miracle of these boys finally being able to be … well, just boys … is breath-taking. A simple cataract surgery gave them back the joy of boyhood.

‘Once the Anastasis arrived we made sure Rafael came to the clinic to be screened and had all he needed to prepare for surgery. Dr Gary explained that Rafael had a cleft lip and a cleft pallet, but as Rafael had successfully managed his cleft palate into adulthood, Dr Gary thought it best to only reconstruct his lip.

Rafael requested I stay with him during the whole surgery process. In the operating room I witnessed a modern-day medical miracle which gave him hope. I sat with him in recovery and promised not to leave his side.

Before the Anastasis left Mexico, Henry and I returned to the square with a gift for Rafael. I remember the sheer joy I felt seeing him confidently walk towards us, with his head held high and his new smile stretched from ear to ear.’

Rafael was no longer ashamed to look the world in the eye.

Story by Gaye Applegate Hudspeth