Home Missions Medicine Medicine News Peering through the darkness toward the land of dreams

Peering through the darkness toward the land of dreams

Thursday, 31 August 2017 18:6 PM | ARTICLE BY | Chloe Dela Cruz
Arosela, Ronald and Rotchel, together with the volunteers, do the Tzu Chi's Thank You hand sign as their way of showing their unending gratitude for the foundation. Calijan Siblings promise to take with them the teachings of Master Cheng Yen as they start the new journey of their lives with good eyesight. 【Photo by Chloe Dela Cruz】

Story Highlights

  • Ronald and Rotchel Calijan suffer from cataract on both eyes. Through social media, their story found its way to Tzu Chi Foundation, which arranged for their subsequent eye surgery and, soon, a new hope.

Growing up without anything to see but darkness or blurry things is a nightmare for Calijan siblings, Rotchel and Ronald.

Rotchel was born with cataracts on both eyes and lived with it for 17 years. Because of the thickness of the cataract, her family has all but lost hope that Rotchel will be able to see.

Her younger brother, Ronald, also has cataracts on both eyes but not as thick as Rotchel’s. Still, he has difficulty reading and seeing his surroundings. He’s lived with this burden for 16 years.

Their 49-year-old mother, Arosela, admits that it breaks her heart whenever she sees her children struggle with poor eyesight. She also reveals that this is also the reason her husband has left them.

“My husband could not accept the fact that our children are disabled. He said that we are the cause of his bad luck. So, I told him that if he can’t accept our children, then he can leave us. But me, I will be firm with my decision. I am their mother, and I will never leave them for anything or anyone,” narrates Arosela

It was 2010 when the head of the family abandoned them. Since then, Arosela serves as both mother and father to her five children. However, her salary as a laundress could not sustain the needs of her children. As much as she wants to bring Ronald and Rotchel to an ophthalmologist, their money is just enough for their everyday needs.

The siblings’ struggles

Because of her condition, Rotchel does not know how to read and write. She also has not experienced being a student because she fears of getting bullied by her classmates. Only her mother serves as her teacher.

However, she still makes herself productive at home, “I am the one who wash the dishes. I also wash our clothes, and fold our clothes. Because for me, being blind should never become a hindrance for me to help my mother in doing house chores.”

“Deep inside, I really envy them because they can see the things around them and they can move normally. They don’t have to be guided by anyone,” adds Rotchel.

She also experiences being bullied by other people because of her condition, “Ever since I was a child, some people are bullying me because I am blind. They will call me blind Rotchel. They tell me to stay away from them because I do not belong, for unlike them, they are normal. I also get hurt every time that they will call me illiterate, because I don’t know how to read nor to write. They will call me ‘idiot’.”

Unlike Rotchel, Ronald comes to school because he can still use his right eye, though his vision is extremely blurry.

While Ronald is a hardworking student, he finds it hard to study. He has to bring his notebook up close to see what he writes. He also has to shove his face on book to read.

Asked to describe Ronald, his teacher Christy Joy Arellano only has good words for him.

“Ronald is really like a big brother to his classmates. When he comes to the school, despite his condition, he will get a book then he will teach his classmates. But what really amazed me about Ronald is his perseverance to pursue his dreams. He is really dedicated and determined to change his life. He really wants to give his family a comfortable life despite on his situation,” shares Arellano.

Most of the time, Ronald and his mother walk from their home in Taguig City to school in Pasig. They don’t have money to ride a tricycle or jeepney.

But according to him, he will not let his condition and their poverty to hinder him on fulfilling his dreams.

Journey to Tzu Chi

The Calijan family attends the weekly Bible study organized by Christ Jesus Our Life church in their community. At one point, they met pastors Onie Avante and Josana Pabalan, both well-known for helping the poor.

Avante posted the photo of Rotchel and Ronald on social media to ask for help for their eye operation. As of this writing, the post has earned 90 reactions and 1 share.

A doctor saw the post and referred to her husband who knew Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) ophthalmologist Catherine Macaraig. She advises bringing the siblings to the Tzu Chi Eye Clinic in Sta. Mesa, Manila for a checkup.

With hopes in their hearts, Arosela and Pastor Pabalan brought Rotchel and Ronald to the eye clinic on June 23. They were surprised when they found out that both children have the chance to see clearly.

“To be honest, we thought that Rotchel is totally blind, and we already gave up on hoping that she will be able to see again,” says Pabalan.

After a series of checkups, Rotchel’s left eye underwent surgery on July 12 and her right eye on August 30. Ronald’s left eye underwent surgery on August 9, while his right eye is scheduled for the last week of September.

Unending gratefulness

Arosela is overwhelmed by the help that they received from Tzu Chi. She has no idea that a foundation that provides everything they need and not ask anything in return exists.

“I am very grateful to Tzu Chi Foundation because they are the one who helped my children to be operated. Because of this, I am no longer worried about their future even though I am no longer in their side. I know that they can carry their selves, regardless of my guidance,” says Arosela.

She also narrates the changes that she observes on her children after their surgeries. Ronald no longer shoves his face to read or write. Meanwhile, Rotchel can move without supervision and perform chores around the house. Ronald is also extremely happy and grateful to the foundation. He promises to be a model student and a good son.

“Now, I am more participative in class recitations and my penmanship got better. I can now read properly, with enough distance from the book,” says Ronald.

Meanwhile, Rotchel has only good thoughts and word of thanks on all of the happenings in her life.

“I am really thankful to all the people who helped us, to the doctors, most especially Dr. Macaraig and to Tzu Chi Foundation. I hope that you will continue to help a lot of people like me,” Rotchel says.

“And my message to all the people who are also experiencing the struggles that I experienced before: do not give up and do not lose hope. The Lord will guide you,” she adds.

She plans to resume her studies on the next school year.

Ronald and Rotchel serve as an inspiration to other people, living proofs of enduring hope and a struggle worth fighting for.

Last Updated: Thursday, 31 August 2017 18:6 PM

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