Now these children can watch movies

2015-10-13 06:00
Excited youngsters cue up to get ready for their first ever cinema experience.

desirée Rorke

Excited youngsters cue up to get ready for their first ever cinema experience. PHOTO: desirée Rorke

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Not all children can take for granted the joy of watching their favourite movie on the big screen.

On Thursday morning, some 100 vision impaired children, many of them suffering from eye abnormalities as a result of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), were treated to Maya the Bee at Ster-Kinekor Gape Gate, having discovered their newfound vision.

For these little five to seven-year-olds, this was their first cinema experience after receiving either spectacles or eye surgery.

“Growth inside the retina is affected by FAS, resulting in these children having severe vision impairment. Some of them can be helped by means of spectacles or in more severe cases surgery if detected early enough,” said France Nxumalo from the Brien Haden Vision Institute in Durban.

The institute is currently in the process of expanding their work to the Western Cape winelands and has teamed up with local NPO My Little Eye.

“We go to wine farms to screen the children of the farm workers for vision impairment. We then refer them to clinics and institutions such as Brien Haden to assist them with the help they might need,” says Ramona Lubbe from My Little Eye.

Since 2005, Ster-Kinekor, through their flagship social investment programme Vision Mission, has partnered with strategic partners to help children such as these.

“Vision Mission has for the past 10 years offered eye sight screening and spectacles to children from previously disadvantaged backgrounds across the country. With over 281 100 beneficiaries to date, the programme aims to eradicate preventable blindness in children,” Ster-Kinekor Social Investment Manager Geraldine Engelman said.

The day’s activities also marked World Sight Day and the start of National Eye Care Awareness month.

Engelman says sight is integral to appreciating the wonderful world of cinema.

“Research has revealed that blindness could be avoided in eight out of 10 cases if proper testing is conducted at an early age. The visual system is fully developed between 10 and 11 years, when a problem might be corrected and vision preserved,” she says.

“Poor eye sight can also not only make the learning experience uncomfortable, but it also hinders progress in the classroom, sporting and extra-mural ability and social integration.”

Research done at UCT has shown that the Western Cape’s wine region has one of the highest reported levels of FAS in the world – levels of up to 300 per 1 000 children are afflicted in some Boland regions, according to Dr Susan Levine, a medical anthropologist with the University of Cape Town.

Due to the legacy of the age old “dop system” implemented 300 years ago, but banned in the 1960s, alcoholism is still widespread on the wine farms around Paarl and Stellenbosch.

Harry Rosen, CEO of the South African Optometric Association also attended the event and said eye sight is often taken for granted. “Without spectacles none of these kids would have been able to watch the movie today. The sad reality is that hundreds of thousands South Africans are vision impaired, but have no access to eye care.”

Follow National Eye Care Awareness month activities via the Ster-Kinekor Theatres page on Facebook and follow Ster-Kinekor on Twitter: @sterkinekor

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