37. Benigno, Guatemala 2001

‘Children seemed to enjoy tripping and hitting me because I couldn’t see,’ Benigno explained. Bilateral cataracts had so reduced his sight that he could hardly see them coming. ‘So my father took me out of school when I was 8.’

40 STORIES OF HEALING: Day 37
At the turn of the millennium, there were no special services for the blind in Benigno’s remote village in Guatemala. The teenager’s parents cared for him, leading him wherever he needed to go – all day, every day, without exception. Life on their small farm was limited. But his parents’ main concern was not for the present, but for his future. Who would care for their son when they were gone?

A surgery in the city to restore Benigno’s sight cost over $1,000 in 2001. For a young man who couldn’t work, whose father made $3.00 a day, it was simply beyond their reach.

Then someone told Benigno some remarkable news. ‘I heard there’s a ship in Puerto Quetzal offering free eye surgeries!’ Benigno and his cousin rode a bus for five hours to reach the port city where the Caribbean Mercywas anchored.

Benigno received cataract surgery onboard to restore sight in both his eyes. His mother cried when he returned, walking to their home without a guide for the first time since he was a little child. Everyone in the neighbourhood came to see him. ‘We know that this is from God. We never thought that he would be able to see again,’ his mother declared.

After his final surgery check up, Benigno pulled his official yet redundant ID card from his pocket.‘It says I’m blind,’ he stated, grinning at the irony.

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