Seeing Clearly Project Statement S E E I N G C L E A R L Y Ciénaga, Colombia, home to ~120,000 people, is perched between the Caribbean Sea and a large estuary. These two bodies of water are vitally important to locals who rely heavily on fishing for sustenance and income. Poverty is a hard reality in this area: many relocated here after they were displaced from violence in Colombia’s recent past. Eye and vision problems are very common, stemming from a combination of the intensity of the sun reflecting off water, poor nutrition, and inaccessibility to quality healthcare when accidents occur. For over 20 years, a group of doctors from the US and Canada have been traveling to Colombia with Medical Ministry International to provide services for better eye health around the country. In 2015, I joined this team to document their work in Ciénaga, both in the clinic and operating room, and to connect with the people that were coming, some from great distances, to take advantage of these services. Through smiles and tears, people generously shared their stories and homes with me. I met a man with cataracts whose life was filled with tragic loss but has found solace in a family down the street. With his eyes straight after a strabismus surgery, an 11-year old boy expressed how eager he was to go back to school knowing that the kids there would no longer have reason to make fun of him. A young mom showed off her prosthetic eye and beamed with joy as she told me her story, now full of hope. This new eye meant social acceptance and the ability to pursue her dream job of hotel management. When I ventured to the surrounding towns supported by Ciénaga, I found 10-year old refugee camps where people lived who had been displaced from their small towns by FARC guerillas. Even though it is safe for many them to return, these barrios are now their home, these people their family. There were isolated fishing villages built entirely on stilts deep in the estuary where a good fishing spot eventually became a community. Fishermen talked about having to raise their homes when the floods came though, a huge undertaking, but they preferred life in these quiet villages to the crime and noise of the cities where economic opportunities can be greater. During the two-week program, over 5700 people came to the clinic, with 100s of surgeries performed and 1000s of glasses handed out, but what impressed me most was the resiliency of the people I met. It is easy to forget the power of simple things like reading glasses, which are abundantly available to many of us. Seeing someone who is able to read for the first time in years and the smile that brings to their whole being is unforgettable. So is the tenderness of people living in pieced-together houses with light beaming through cardboard walls, as they tell stories of lives filled with hardship, but also with family. With their new glasses or cataract-free eyes, people were able to see the world more clearly. Those who had come to the clinic with an eye crossed, or even missing, left looking forward to the way their culture would now see them. And I, who arrived with my vision physiologically sound, departed with a new perspective on the daily trials people survive and how, while they may be lacking in material comforts, together, can even thrive.