Community program restores a mother’s sight

Written by Admin, published on May 3, 2016 Donate Today
Shakila is happy that she can see again! She’s had cataract surgery on one eye and plans to have the other eye operated on soon.

Shakila, 52, lives in Bhopal, India. A widow, she works hard to support her two daughters as best she can through a variety of small jobs. She washes dishes and helps local farmers at the market by cleaning wheat and rice or grooming animals.

But these tasks became extremely difficult when her vision started to blur due to cataract in both eyes. As the cataracts matured, she became almost completely blind. In the late evenings on her way home from the market, she couldn’t see anything at all; she’d often fall down in the street several times as she slowly made her way through the darkness.

Eventually she couldn’t even clean crops at the market anymore, losing her family’s last source of income. Sadly, she suffered like this for five years, having neither the time nor the money to seek treatment.

Fortunately, help came to her when our partner hospital in Bhopal, Aman Advanced Eye Hospital (AAEH), implemented its Hospital-Based Community Eye Health Program, which was developed by Operation Eyesight to help hospitals like AAEH reach more people in need of eye care.

The first stage of this program involves a door-to-door survey of every household in the target area. Community health workers, who live and work in the local community, screen residents for eye problems, educate them on the importance of eye health, and encourage them to use local health care services.

When Nagma, a community health worker, arrived at Shakila’s door and discovered her condition, she empathized with her and made it her mission to ensure Shakila got the treatment she needed.

While some hospitals in India offer free, government-sponsored cataract surgeries to poor patients like Shakila, AAEH is in the ironic position of having a government hospital nearby, so it’s ineligible to receive government subsidy. To make matters worse, the government’s facilities are severely lacking and provide only a few free surgeries per month, meaning the majority of poor patients go untreated.

Thanks to Operation Eyesight-trained community health workers, patients like Shakila (centre) can be identified and referred for treatment.

In Shakila’s case, it was Nagma’s close relationship with the local community that allowed her to get the cataract surgery she so desperately needed. As a resident of the community herself, Nagma knew Shakila’s landlord and neighbours well, and she encouraged them to contribute the money needed to pay for one of Shakila’s operations.

Today, Shakila is a whole new person! She’s grateful to have vision in one eye again and is back at work at the market, saving up money so she can get her other eye operated on soon. With her dignity and independence restored, she’s also taking on new types of work to improve her standard of living.

Her wish is for Operation Eyesight’s hospital partners and donors to continue helping those in need. “The smallest help can have the most valuable results,” she says.  

Thanks to our generous donors, we’re able to support hospitals like AAEH and provide training for community health workers like Nagma. This means we’re able to reach patients like Shakila who would otherwise go needlessly blind. Please consider contributing to our outreach programs so we can give the gift of sight to even more people.