17-year-old Naw Elcy started feeling dizzy and having a headache 4 years ago. Without knowing the reason, she felt frustrated and couldn’t help but think she had some illness. She ended up avoiding textbooks and could not catch up with classes. She was told that she is near-sighted that’s why she had issues with reading.
Naw Elcy is 17-year-old. She has 3 siblings. She is from a small village in Karen state, in which around 200 households live. Most of the villagers are subsistent farmers. Her parents sent her to Thoo Mhwe Kee Migrant Learning Centre (MLC) in Phop Phra, Thailand 8 years ago in hopes that she has access to education. Now she is in grade 10.
She started feeling dizzy and burning eyes and having a headache 4 years ago. When it gets worse, she could not see the lights. The symptom was not constant but a few months later she realised that it gets worse and she could not focus on her classes. Even reading a book became painful. All she could do was to take rest during her study.
She looked around her friends. They seemed all alright, having no issues with their eyes. She felt frustrated and couldn’t help but think she had some illness. She ended up avoiding textbooks and could not catch up with classes. Going to a clinic or hospital was not an option for her as she could not afford the medical bills. She eventually asked her teacher for help. Her teacher suggested that she should visit Mae Tao Clinic to get tested. It was 2016. With the support of her teacher, she visited the eye department at the clinic, having her eyesight tested, and received glasses. She was told that she is near-sighted that’s why she had issues with reading.
Wearing glasses was life-changing. At first, she felt embarrassed to wear glasses as no classmates wear them. But she noticed that she could focus on her study more and more and read as much as possible. A headache and dizziness all disappeared like a magic. Shyness to wear glasses doesn’t last long as it helped her school life. For one year, she enjoyed her study with glasses. But from some moment, she felt dizziness and headache and found it hard to read textbook again. Glasses were not helping and she could not see as clear as when she got them.
In January 2018, MTC’s eye team, together with partner organisations visited her school for providing eye screening. She explained her situation to the eye staff during the screening, and the staff arranged the schedule for the visit to Mae Tao Clinic. In March, students from her school visited the clinic, had their eye visions tested and received eyeglasses.
When we visited her school again, she looked genuinely happy and welcomed us.
“I cannot thank enough to people who provide these glasses. I was scared when I could not focus on study and had a number of symptoms, such as the headache and burning eyes. I could not even imagine I had these issues because of my poor eyesight. I guess many live along the Thai-Burma border might suffer from the same reason that I had. Some can think that eyeglasses are nothing special, but for people like me they are priceless and they can indeed change lives,” said Naw Elcy during the interview.
 Karen State is a state of Myanmar. It is bordered by Thailand to the east. Majority of refugees and migrants along the Thai-Burma border are from Karen State.