Eye Exams Seek to Improve Outlook for Rural Romanian Children

Dozens of Romanian children had their eyes examined for the first time in a rural area of the southern Carpathian Mountains in Romania. Casa Buna, or good house, is a humanitarian organization. It planned the eye exams in Nucsoara, an area with many villages. Periodic eye exams are suggested from as early as six months old. But many children in the poor, rural community had never been seen by an ophthalmologist, a doctor that specializes in eyes. Mioara Marinescu was the volunteer ophthalmologist at last Saturday’s event. She told The Associated Press, “out of 30 children tested, 20 needed glasses.” She said that as many villages in the country as possible need events like this.  The importance of testing children’s eyes is not limited to corrective eyewear. Amblyopia is the condition known as “lazy eye.” It is when one eye becomes weak and no longer looks straight. It is estimated to affect one to five percent of children around the world. And missed cases can lead to problems in the future.   Marinescu found three children with amblyopia when she examined them. She said this disorder can restrict individuals from certain professions in adulthood. The eye doctor said, “in our country, children do not receive education or health equally.” Valeriu Nicolae founded Casa Buna in 2007. He comes from a poor Roma community himself. He said poor eyesight can have a serious, harmful effect on children’s educational outcomes. “Teachers think the kids hate to read, but in fact, they hate to read because they cannot read because their eyesight is poor,” Nicolae said. “Kids who cannot read because their eyes are really bad are useless in the educational process. They get fed up and they drop out.” The volunteer organization supports more than 300 children and their families. It most importantly believes in supporting children to follow education. The group has played a key part in helping children during the pandemic. Casa Buna arrived in Nucsoara more than a year ago. The city is 200 kilometers northwest of the capital Bucharest. Volunteers visit every two weeks. They bring aid to 94 children and their families. Nicolae said, “it was the start of the pandemic, and practically none of these kids had internet or computers. We put computers in all of their houses, made sure they have internet ... and all they need to stay online to continue their education.” Dozens of volunteers joined the eye testing event. Even motorcyclists, persons who rides a vehicle with two wheels, from the group Bikers for Humanity joined. The volunteers organized activities and games to bring in as many children as possible. Casa Buna also brought children's gifts for International Children’s Day which took place on June 1.   Nicolae said, “we’ll do (eye testing) this year in nine villages. We hope to make anywhere between 600 to 1,000 pairs of glasses.” He has won international awards for his work to better children’s education. Romania has a population of more than 19 million people. It has the highest percentage of children at risk of becoming poor and socially rejected in the 27-country European Union. The European agency on data Eurostat found Romania’s rate is 35.8 percent compared to an EU average of 22.5 percent. Poor children are usually found in the country’s rural communities. About 50 percent of children are poor in these areas. Ophthalmologist Marinescu said that we should all have equal ability to have education and health care from the moment we are born. She believes it should not matter where we are born. I’m Dorothy Gundy.   Stephen McGrath and Andreea Alexandru reported this story for The Associated Press. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor. _____________________________________________________________________   Words in This Story   dozen – n. a group of 12 people or things volunteer – n. someone who does something without being forced to do it glasses – n. eyeglasses with light metal frames and large lenses lazy – adj. not liking to work hard or to be active kid – n. a young person fed up – adj. very tired of something: angry about something that has continued for a long time practically – adv. almost or nearly