Clerence Natnaur is a young woman with big dreams.

She dreams of a singing career - performing the many beautiful Christian songs she loves so much in front of audiences.

She dreams of finding love and having a family of her own; children to care for and a husband to cherish.

She also has one seemingly simple dream - to see.

Advertisement

Asked to explain what her eyesight is like, the 23-year-old describes "blurry people'' and foggy images that make up the world around her.

"I can't really see your face,'' she says shyly.

Clerence Natnaur, 23, sings at the opening of the new Vanuatu National Eye Centre in Port Vila. Photo / Dean Purcell
Clerence Natnaur, 23, sings at the opening of the new Vanuatu National Eye Centre in Port Vila. Photo / Dean Purcell

Natnaur has type 1 diabetes, dense cataracts and diabetic retinopathy, which causes bleeding in the back of the eye.

The pink clogs she wears everywhere cover the toes that had to be amputated a few years ago, as a result.

The Herald first met her late last year and highlighted her story as part of a series following The Fred Hollows Foundation; a charity aimed at treating and preventing blindness and other vision problems in people around the world.

Founded by eye surgeon Fred Hollows in 1993, the group trains local doctors and nurses in the Pacific so they can then diagnose and treat eye problems within their communities.

The Herald campaign raised $155,700 for eye-health equipment, including an eye camera used to diagnose a range of eye diseases, computers, electronic eye charts and outstanding building costs for the $2.5 million new clinic. The week we visit, in mid-February, is meant to be a big one for the young woman - surgery week.

Clerence Natnaur, 23, with her mother Jeaneth Natnaur behind her. Photo / Dean Purcell
Clerence Natnaur, 23, with her mother Jeaneth Natnaur behind her. Photo / Dean Purcell

However, yet another complication will see Natnaur's much-needed cataract operations cancelled for a fourth time because of skin infections on her face.

If infection were to seep into her eyes, it could result in complete blindness - a risk no surgeon wants to take.

Despite the setback, she smiles still and says she is "happy tumas'' (very happy) to even be given the chance to have eye surgery.

She has worked hard in the past few months to change her diet to a much healthier one in order to be better prepared for an operation and to try to get the facial wounds to heal quicker.

Clerence Natnaur gets her eyes checked at the new Vanuatu National Eye Centre, funded by The Fred Hollows Foundation, in Port Vila. Photo / Dean Purcell
Clerence Natnaur gets her eyes checked at the new Vanuatu National Eye Centre, funded by The Fred Hollows Foundation, in Port Vila. Photo / Dean Purcell

When the hospital staff put on a meal later, Natnaur's plate is filled with vegetables and salads and a whole chunk of watercress sitting on the top.

"I have changed my diet from when I was diagnosed with diabetes.

"My family have helped me too. We eat the local food - traditional and healthier food."

A week later, she gets the news she has waited so long for and the operation goes ahead.

The results are better than expected.

The day after her operation, she tells ophthalmologist Dr Johnson Kasso her eyesight is: ''I kiln I pitim kiln.'' Her words are Bislama for "more than clear.''

"Truly amazing when she mentioned [that]," local eye nurse Basil Aitip says.

"Those are the words she spoke when about to be brought under microscope to be seen by Dr Kasso.''

Clerence Natnaur, 23, pictured on the day of the opening of the new Vanuatu National Eye Centre funded by The Fred Hollows Foundation. Photo / Dean Purcell
Clerence Natnaur, 23, pictured on the day of the opening of the new Vanuatu National Eye Centre funded by The Fred Hollows Foundation. Photo / Dean Purcell

The Fred Hollows family here, made up of eye nurses and doctors, are close to their patients and it is great news for everyone who has been involved in caring for Natnaur.

The day after surgery, her visual acuity is measured at 6/12. Experts have high hopes that she will reach close to 6/6, or 20/20, vision - regarded as the average baseline.

It appears at least one of Natnaur's dreams is slowly coming true.

To donate to The Fred Hollows Foundation, visit their website.