Seeing the world clearly and leading a normal life like his classmates has always been the dream of Cyril, a five-year-old child from the upland community of Sta. Rosa in province of Eastern Leyte in central Philippines. When he grows up, he wants to be an engineer.
Like most families in Eastern Leyte, Cyril’s home, school and most of their belongings were damaged when Typhoon Haiyan hit in November 2013.
“The things of my son, as well as most of our furniture, were no longer usable. It was really difficult for us,” 27-year-old Sherelyn, Cyril’s mother, shared.
But aside from the damages from the typhoon, his family has become more concerned with Cyril’s eyesight. At a young age, cataracts have developed in both Cyril’s eyes. His vision kept deteriorating, which made it difficult for him to perform daily tasks a boy his age could usually do. Though quite an enthusiastic student, Cyril cannot clearly see the lessons on the classroom blackboard, resulting to difficulty in his studies. His cataracts have also been an object of ridicule among kids in his school.
Accepting his condition as being “naturally” inborn and with the simplicity of his parents’ life, they have not taken Cyril to a doctor for medical check-up.
Save the Children believes that education should be inclusive, and that every child deserves to reach their full potential. Through a partnership with the Christoffel Blindenmission or CBM, Save the Children conducted medical check-ups for students with disabilities, to assess their current conditions and possible treatments that will help improve the quality of their life.
“It was the first time for Cyril to have a check-up. He was medically diagnosed with cataract, an eye impairment where the lens of the eye is clouded leading to a decrease in vision which may cause blindness,” Sherelyn said.
“Cyril was referred for an eye surgery, and he had undergone an operation a few weeks after. I felt happy because my son can finally see well. They also gave assistive devices to Cyril and the other children with disabilities to help them improve their life especially for their schooling,” she added.
“I was afraid at first because I thought that they will remove my eyes. After the operation, I was thrilled to see clearly. I told my mother to take off the cover on my eyes, so I can see the world with a clearer view,” Cyril said.
Aside from medical referrals, Save the Children and CBM repaired six classrooms in Cyril’s school which were severely damaged because of typhoon Haiyan. Most had serious ceiling water leaks, which left children exposed to rains and classes, disrupting learning even more during the rainy season. The rebuilt classrooms were made easily accessible for students with disabilities, having additional building elements like ramps. Aside from school officials, carpenters and engineers were also provided orientations on disability and inclusion before the start of the classroom reconstructions, to ensure that they understand the importance of their role in improving the children’s lives.
A total of 60 classrooms in 18 elementary schools were provided similar repairs. Classroom furniture such as armchairs and tables were also provided to ensure that children, especially those with disabilities, will have access to quality and safe learning environment.
Other school improvements were provided through cash transfers intended for projects focused on water system rehabilitation, creation of learning spaces, procurement of kitchen utensils for feeding program and construction of school pathways.
After Cyril’s operation, it was no longer difficult for him to read and watch television. His improved sight and the improved school conditions helped him understand the lessons better.
“Cyril can now read properly during class. His grades also improved. In fact, he is one of the honor students in his class,” Sherelyn shared.
“He wants to become an engineer someday because he wants to build houses. I believe his eye operation is the first step to achieving and realizing this dream.”
Save the Children also conducted activities aimed at improving literacy rates, such as distributing books and reading materials to schools and students. This has encouraged parents to read and learn with their children.
Aside from improved learning, Cyril’s mother added that the activities helped improve bonds between parents and their children. This made them more aware of their children’s special needs.
“CBM and Save the Children really made a big difference in the life of my son and all other children in our community. Their assistance is helping them fulfil their dreams and full potential,” Sherelyn added.
“Thank you for giving Cyril the opportunity to see the world clearly and make a difference in the life of others.”
Save the Children continues to provide support to Typhoon Haiyan-affected children and their families in Iloilo and Leyte provinces. The organization works with the Christoffel Blindenmission (CBM) in ensuring access to quality and inclusive education for vulnerable children.
In Western Leyte, the 60 newly repaired and furnished classrooms cater to almost 2,000 elementary students, including more than 100 students with disabilities. Around 6,000 students also received education kits to replace their lost schools items after Typhoon Haiyan. These were complemented with training sessions for parents, teachers and caregivers for increased awareness on inclusive education, non-discrimination, and proper support and care for children’s holistic development and learning.