The photo of 12-year-old Sakinah, her bright blue eyes blind from birth, tugged at Susanne Hawkins’ heart.

Sakinah and her mother, members of a nomadic tribe of snake charmers, had walked more than a dozen miles through the hills of Baluchistan in southwestern Pakistan to seek aid at an eye clinic in 2010.

They were told there was nothing the doctors could do. Sakinah needed a corneal transplant, a complicated procedure requiring expensive, imported donor tissue.

The eye camps funded by the N.A. Sher Foundation of Chelsea, Maine, specialize in treating people with cataracts, doing hundreds of free surgeries over a few days for people in poor, remote regions of Pakistan where the villages lack even running water.

Photos of Sakinah and her mother were among those that Alam Sher, a clinical pharmacist at the Togus VA Medical Center, showed to fellow workers, including Hawkins, after he returned from that 2010 clinic.

“Find the girl,” Hawkins told him. She would pay for the tissue; the foundation would pay for the rest of the expenses.

“It was just a gut reaction,” Hawkins said Sunday. “I didn’t think about it. This girl had traveled so many miles on foot through dangerous territory. I couldn’t imagine what this mother had gone through. She must have been desperate.”

Finding that girl would not be easy, Sher knew.

Born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan, Sher and his wife, Nasreen, started the foundation in 2007, and it began accepting donations after it gained 501(c)(3) status in 2010, to assist their former countrymen and others in southeast Asia with medical and educational needs.

Alam Sher sets up the clinics — where the eye treatment is done by his brother, Dr. Sultan Ali, and Ali’s son, both eye surgeons in Karachi, Pakistan — so he knew how to start his search.

He checked with people he had met during that 2010 clinic. He sent Sakinah’s photo, and had it posted at bus stops. Finally someone recognized the girl and made contact with the tribe and the girl’s parents.

“The elders had to decide if they would send her to the city,” Alam Sher said. They agreed, as did Sakinah’s parents.

Then it took another two months to arrange to get corneal tissue from Sri Lanka, do pre-surgery counseling and evaluation. “We had to make sure she could actually be helped by this,” Sher said.

The surgery, which removed the clouded cornea on the outer layer of Sakinah’s right eye and replaced it with donor tissue, took place April 26. A day later, Ali reported that Sakinah, now 13, could see fingers for the first time in her life.

“For the cost of a Coach pocketbook, someone could see,” Hawkins said. “I was overwhelmed being in the position of being able to do that. It’s too bad we live so far away. It would be wonderful to embrace her and her mother.”

While Alam Sher also still gets emotional while talking about the success of Sakinah’s surgery, he and the foundation are now focusing on another cause: a new maternity wing at Aisha Bibi Memorial Hospital in Sindh. He wants Sakinah to do the ribbon-cutting.

On Sunday, however, Sher said a fundraiser planned for this weekend had to be canceled. He said the next one will be set in the fall — the first Maine South Asian Film Festival.