Lorie Friesen, director of Policy and Planning, International Programs, joined Operation Eyesight this spring, bringing a wealth of experience in not-for-profit management focused on community investment and development initiatives. Her current work requires close relationships with Operation Eyesight’s overseas staff and program partners, leading to her first trip to India last May.
To a first-time visitor, India seems overwhelming – the masses of people, the riot of colour. To a Canadian like me, it seemed like chaos, but the truth is there is a practical and deep order to things. I went to India with an open heart and mind, and was rewarded with an overwhelming appreciation of this ancient land.
I visited several of Operation Eyesight’s partner hospital programs over the course of two weeks, but the one that keeps coming to mind is Little Flower Hospital in Kerala on the southern tip of India.
An amazing facility in many ways, I instantly took note of its forest location – the recently built tower is fronted by an urban street, but a vast, undeveloped forest stretches out at the back. It reminded me of the Jungle Book! I was struck by the way in which Indians live in the modern world, but also in the natural world – they try to embrace the best of both.
Similarly, the people of India seem comfortable acknowledging the past while also moving into the future. What I observed in the people I met at the hospital and in the community was a sense of hopefulness and progress. But they measure that progress over generations, not just over a lifetime.
Little Flower hospital itself is an amazing model of efficiency, but again, it’s different from North America. Picture hundreds of people in the hallways, all of them moving purposefully. I later learned that great thought had been put into the design of the facility, allowing an easy flow through the diagnosis and treatment process.
Despite the number of patients and staff, there was no apparent chaos. Except for us – as visitors, we were swimming upstream. Our guide was giggling because we were the ones creating havoc!
There’s more to the story. Next week, in part 2, I’ll talk about how the Indian view of progress connects with Operation Eyesight’s values.