Eyeglass Assist

Solomon Islands Project


Title: Back To School

Location : Basilaki Island, Papua New Guinea

Year : 2010

We had taken a number of people from Gigila Island across to Alotau on the mainland of Papua New Guinea to purchase building materials for the school. The rest of them were making their own way back to Gigila whilst the crew of Monkey Fist slowly made their way back sailing upwind, so it took us several days. Late one afternoon we anchored at a small bay on Basilaki Island and not too long after we anchored, as usual, we had a person paddle up to us in her dugout canoe. She was in her late teens and very well spoken. We invited her on board and had a cup of cordial and chat and after about 1/2 an hour another dugout canoe approached with an older lady and her grandson on board. The first girl bid her farewell and got back into her dugout.

After chatting with our new guests for a short while we brought up the subject of glasses. We assessed her need for glasses and fitted her with a moderate strength pair of readers for which she was extremely grateful. After a little longer the grandmother and child climbed back into their canoe and paddled to shore. During their visit we had noticed that our original visitor, the young girl had not paddled away at all, but she had continued to drift around our boat. She pulled up again to Monkey Fist and said "forgive me, but did I see you give that old lady glasses?" We said yes we did, why do you ask?" She said "Because I need glasses too " We told her that she had better come back on board and we would see if we could help her.

 After determining that she wasn't able to see properly and fitting her with a pair of glasses and with a big smile she told us her story. She had been attending secondary school in Port Moresby & was three quarters away throught her final year but because of her poor vision she was not able to continue with her schooling. Unfortunately this is an all too common situation and in countries where health care is basic and where schooling must be paid for, a point is quickly reached where a student from a family with little money must forgoe the promise of a better life that comes with education and return to their subsistence life. So, not being able to afford glasses she too had given up school and returned to her home village on Basilaki Island.

 She had a tear in her eye and so did we when she told us that she be able now to return to school and take with her all the hopes of her family to make their lives a little more comfortable. We wish her the best of luck.


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