Up Now

Giving Back: The Gift Of Sight.


The gift of sight by Bambusee. You can help too.

Yuyun is a vibrant 13-year-old girl from an isolated village in Nusa Tenggara Timor who was born blind. Because of her condition, she attended a junior high school for people with disabilities in the Kabupaten capital of Soe, where she was taught to read Braille. Despite her bright nature and schooling, Yuyun was often teased, and she had little hope for her future.

Although Yuyun’s parents assumed she would always be blind, they decided on the off chance to take her to the Bambusee-sponsored sight testing and sight restoration clinic in Soe to see if her blindness was curable. To their surprise and delight, the ophthalmologist found that her blindness was the result of cataracts, and that it could in fact be treated with a simple operation.

Bambusee, with its partner Yayasan Besi Pae, assisted Yuyun to have the operation at the main hospital in the provincial capital of Kupang. Her right eye was operated on in October 2017 and her left eye will be operated on soon. Yuyun is ecstatic about the results and eagerly looking forward to the next operation.

She says, “I will now be able to live with my parents and brother and attend the local junior high school, as I can read and write like the other children and will no longer be teased by the other students. My dreams are now being fulfilled, as I hope to continue my studies and go to university. My only other hope is that my younger brother can also be operated on so that he can see better.”

Indonesia has the second highest incidence of blindness in the world and the highest in Southeast Asia with 1.5% of the population being blind compared to 0.3% in Thailand. Eighty percent of those who are deemed blind have curable blindness like Yuyun.

However, there are only about 2,000 ophthalmologists in Indonesia to help the three million people whose sight can be restored, and 75% of those ophthalmologists practice in Bali and Java. If you live in a rural area, you will most likely remain blind even though the national insurance program (BPJS) covers free operations.

To address this problem, Bambusee is working with the Balinese branch of Indonesian Eye Doctors and Udayana University to send medical teams to NTT to provide free eye tests and, if necessary, operations to restore sight. The ophthalmologists also train local doctors at the health clinics (Puskesmas) to improve their skills in identifying curable blindness and treating patients post-operation.

Bambusee also provides ophthalmology students at Udayana University the opportunity to gain hands-on training so they can complete the practical hours they need to graduate. To date, Bambusee has supported over 500 cataract operations and provided over 1,000 eye tests. In addition, they have helped over 20 trainee ophthalmologists, which is significant considering only eight students are admitted to the specialist eye programme at Udayana University each year, and it takes a minimum of three years to complete the programme.

“Bambusee’s approach is not just to provide operations but to ensure more ophthalmologists are being trained to address the significant backlog,” says Justin Field, one of Bambusee’s founders. “Currently, CSR cataract programs only support about 80,000 operations a year, while approximately 230,000 people are going blind with curable conditions each year. The key to addressing this bottleneck is by assisting more ophthalmologists to graduate sooner rather than later. Through each sale of Bambusee sunglasses a proportion of our income is allocated to support our vision restoration program.”

Bambusee launched their unique, environmentally friendly sunglasses in Bali late last year. Each pair is handmade by skilled craftspeople in Indonesia using recycled or reclaimed wood, hand-quarried stone, and polycarbonate lenses. Apart from the lenses and spring-loaded hinges, all materials are sustainably sourced, and all craftspeople are offered fair working conditions.

Bambusee’s partners also employ people living with HIV/AIDS, reformed drug users and other vulnerable groups.

Bambussee currently offers two collections that include gorgeous glasses framed in a combination of stone and wood and their sleek wood-only frames. You can peruse their website for the complete collections or purchase a pair or three at TS Suites, The Oberoi, W Bali and Seminyak Square. With each purchase you can rest assured that your stylish sunnies will not only look good, but also protect your eyes and potentially restore the vision of someone else’s. S.M.