Manoj Yadav, 22 (left) and his younger brother, Dilip Yadav, 14 at a residential facility for blind boys in Gorakhpur, India. The brothers were born with cataracts in both eyes and were blind until 2011, when they underwent cataract surgery thanks to Proj
Manoj bicycles to work in Gorakhpur. It took him almost 18 months after surgery before his brain could interpret what his eyes were seeing. “Now, I can ride a bicycle even through a crowded market,” he says.
Manoj listens to an audio book. Cataract surgery at age 18 gave him the unexpected gift of sight, but his vision isn’t as sharp as that of normally sighted people. He struggles to read the fine print in text books, so he must rely on audio lessons for his
Drawings and writing by Manoj after cataract surgery.
Neuroscientist Pawan Sinha meets blind children in a village in northern India in 2002. The experience “convinced me of the need to launch Project Prakash,” he says.
A Prakash patient takes an acuity test at Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital in New Delhi. After surgery, vision improves but remains impaired—so most patients wear glasses.
A Project Prakash scientist tests a child after cataract surgery to see whether he can tell objects in a picture apart. Most kids flunk the test early in their recovery. But within 10 to 18 months after surgery, their brains can master the task.
After cataract surgery, children participate in a project called Unruly Art at Dr. Shroff’s Charity Hospital. The project introduces them to colors and shapes and helps them improve their visual-motor coordination skills. It also forges friendships, says

Into the light: Restoring vision

India has the largest number of blind children in the world, many of whom are born with cataracts. A simple surgery early in life can reverse this condition. But in India, poverty and lack of access to health care consign most children with congenital cataracts to a life in darkness. Project Prakash was launched in 2004 to provide cataract surgery to older children and young adults who were considered beyond help, because they are past a critical age when vision develops in the brain. The project has so far brought nearly 500 children and young adults into the light, and in the process has revealed surprising insights into how the brain learns to see. Read the full story here