Kevin Davidson is a member of Operation Eyesight UK’s board of trustees and the chief executive officer of Maxwell Drummond, an international executive search firm headquartered in London, England. He visited our Rasoolpura Urban Slum Project during a December business trip to India. We asked him to share his impressions of the visit.
Rasoolpura is a remarkable initiative. After just five years in operation, the project has enabled such positive change in the community. One of the first things I noticed during my visit was the palpable sense of pride exhibited by the residents. It is astonishing, especially given the negative images that I, and probably many other Westerners, associate with the word “slum.”
After venturing into Rasoolpura with our team, I realized very quickly that Operation Eyesight’s activities are a catalyst for broader economic and community development. Rather than purely concentrating on eyesight issues, we are embedded in broader community initiatives, which helps us track the people who need support when it comes to preventing and treating avoidable blindness.
One of the earliest and most important activities Operation Eyesight undertook in Rasoolpura was a complete census and mapping of area residents. Every dwelling was visited and instances of eye issues and blindness were noted, along with other health conditions. As a result, targeted work that addressed the issues facing residents could begin. Today, avoidable blindness is almost eradicated in Rasoolpura!
In addition, by partnering with other non-governmental organizations and government agencies, we help bring complementary services, skills and education to the community’s residents.
For example, on our way to visit the testing centres where our vision technicians work, we passed a young mothers’ nutrition class being conducted on a street corner. In another area of the community, babies were being weighed, which helps Operation Eyesight teams monitor possible pockets of nutrition or vitamin deficiency. We also visited cooking and sewing classes. While Operation Eyesight doesn’t provide these services directly, we refer residents to other organizations that do.
As we toured Rasoolpura, what became very clear to me is what makes Operation Eyesight different from other organizations: our community outreach. It’s how our staff reach out to find health issues and then connect people with organizations who can help (if it’s not us). Our community health workers, who themselves live in Rasoolpura, are an integral part of the community.
My lasting impression is that the project and our staff members are empowering the community through education and organization to better look after and develop itself from within.
It’s not about outsiders coming in and throwing around money and expertise. It really is about sustainable development – enabling members of the Rasoolpura community to take care of their own, now and in the future.
And it’s all made possible by you, our donors and supporters. Thank you!