CONSTRUCTION worker Joey Parayno, 39, was about to go blind—and jobless too.

Cataract had almost claimed his eyesight, making him a liability among fellow workers. But he saved both his job and eyesight, thanks to the free cataract operation organized by the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery in time for UST’s Quadricentennial celebration this year.

Dubbed “Project 400/400”, the initiative is intended to benefit 400 patients. It was launched in collaboration with the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, a non-profit organization founded in Taiwan by Dharma Master Cheng Yen, at the latter’s clinic in Sta. Mesa, Manila last January 16.

Dr. Antonio Say, head of UST’s Department of Opthalmology, tapped 17 ophthalmologists who graduated from the University for the project.

“They want to give honor to the university that made who they are today,” he said.

Free cataract surgeries for 103 patients were administered during the launching alone.

“All of us, [eye surgeons], wanted to give something back to UST [through our service] because the University has given so much to us,” said Dr. Mario Yatco, one of the volunteers.

“I would like to thank the University for molding us to be morally upright doctors and have unity in our faith,” Say said in his speech during the launching. “I am also thankful to Tzu Chi Foundation because, for so many years, we have been partners in helping the needy despite of our religious differences.”

Say also thanked Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, UST rector, for giving him and other alumni doctors the chance “to serve the needy,” especially as part of the school’s 400th anniversary.

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Shedding light in darkness

One of the patients who benefited from Project 400/400 last February 11 was a 72-year-old sari-sari store owner. She said her vision problems affected her everyday life.

“Lumapit na po ako sa Tzu Chi kasi sa Philippine General Hospital ako dati nagpapacheck-up kaya lang humihingi ng dose mil [para sa operasyon], wala naman ako nu’n,” she said.

Meanwhile, Parayno can now sleep at night without worrying his job.

“Malaki po ang pasasalamat namin sa kanila kasi natutulungan nila kami na mahihirap,” Parayno said. Charmaine M. Parado with reports from Ana May R. Dela Cruz

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