Restoring Sight in India and Myanmar

Last year the Glenn Family Foundation (GFF) awarded AUD150 000 for the purchase of specialist equipment, a water pump and over 1500 cataract and other surgical procedures in India and Myanmar.

The funding has enabled the local hospital to improve a number of critically important services. For the small cost of $2, the new lab can perform blood tests to assess the status of diabetes, the kidneys, the liver, and exclude anaemias and other disorders. It is important to manage these other issues alongside eye treatment.

There is a high prevalence of blindness in Myanmar; a staggering number need glasses and a remarkable number have surgically-remediable blindness, such as cataracts, glaucoma, pterygium, trauma, or inability to open the eyelids. Dr Cohn, eye surgeon with a long history of performing pro bono operations and upgrading services in rural villages, says:

“The GFF donation has been an immeasurable help in upgrading infrastructure as well as in funding clinical work to rectify these problems.”

Here Dr Cohn tells the stories of some of the beneficiaries:

An eye without a clear cornea is a frustration. One can see movement and light, but not resolve the images into useful visual information. Following his corneal graft, this man is again able to work, feed a family, maintain a modest house, read and aim a motorbike through the traffic. Prior to the graft, he was not fit for a pedestrian’s licence. It takes time and organisational skill to arrange donations, screen the donors, operate and prevent rejection. Few centres want to undertake this. The cost is substantial if one is to ensure that no corners are cut and that the prevention of rejection is a life-long commitment.

Thanks to GFF we have already performed 31 of these surgeries.



Foreign bodies had to be removed from deep within the eyes of this man. Two operations later, he is recovering and has sufficient vision to return to his scaffolding work. If he had only one eye, his foreman would be unlikely to stop him, but the risk would be extreme!



This school student is blind but her operations will soon take place once we have received permission from her parents by post. She had been smiling until we started shining bright lights into her eyes. Dr Cohn says:

“It is very moving to observe how people accept circumstances which one might find unbearable. Currently, she sees only movement – soon she will see”.


The war on blindness is far from won in India. If all eye hospitals delivered excellent outcomes, as does this one, the popular fear of eye surgery would diminish dramatically. This is an important component of addressing the backlog. This eye hospital has performed over 800 free cataract operations since the GFF donation came in and has dealt with much trauma, glaucoma and corneal blindness by way of corneal grafts. The equipment has been improved, facilitating more comprehensive services. No farmer has had to sell his land, no homeowner his house. We are excited for the future of this hospital and congratulate Dr Cohn and his team on their incredible work.

The Glenn Family Foundation also sponsored a teacher as part of its new HELPS programme, to teach English to teachers, hospital staff and trainees at Shwe Yatu Tipitaka Cakkhupala Eye Hospital and the Monastic School in Mandalay.

“Most of the Myanmar students are quiet and are not confident to speak English in front of an audience, or even their friends. I taught them how to do presentations and let them practice presenting to a group which helped them develop confidence. I used video lessons and also started introducing child-centred approaches to the teachers.” – Ms Ei Phway Nu. English test scores improved significantly over the six month period; a large majority moved from beginner and elementary to pre-intermediate and intermediate levels, and they felt more confident to speak in front of the group.

Collecting information for group presentations

Sarah McLaughlinRestoring Sight in India and Myanmar