Shabnam’s story: Community health work at its finest
Subscribe to our newsletter
AA Increase font size

If you’re lucky, you chose what you wanted to study and what career interested you most.

But what would it be like to live your life thinking that your future had been decided for you?

Shabnam is a 32-year-old woman who lives with her husband and three children in Bhopal, India. She comes from a traditional Muslim family where it is frowned upon for women to work outside the home.

In  spring 2014, Operation Eyesight was holding interviews for Community Health Workers, looking to hire local people to be trained to go door-to-door in the community and identify eye health issues, make an initial diagnosis and refer patients for treatment.

One of Shabnam’s relatives heard about the position and encouraged her to apply, but Shabnam had lived her whole life with the understanding that as a woman, she was not meant to work outside the home. She regretfully decided this opportunity wasn’t for her.

However, that was not the last Shabnam heard of the job. One of her close friends had also heard about the position and decided to apply. Inspired by her friend’s enthusiasm, Shabnam had a change of heart. Armed with a new determination, she bravely sought her family’s support.

It wasn’t easy for Shabnam to convince her family that she should apply. At first, they refused without a thought, but she wasn’t going to give up the chance to make a difference.

After much persuasion, her family finally agreed.

Then Shabnam’s life changed! She attended the interview, and she was selected to become a health worker!

Indian community health worker trained by Operation Eyesight educates her community about eye health and general wellness
Shabnam (holding poster) spends a lot of her time educating her community about health and wellness.

And that was just the beginning! Little did Shabnam know just what contributions she was about to make to the community as a health worker. She would be educating the community not only on the importance of eye health, but on the importance of sanitation, nutrition and more!

Since 2014, Shabnam has been working hard for her community. Her dream is to eliminate avoidable blindness from her area – a daunting task to most, but not to Shabnam. She has diligently gone door-to-door to survey everyone in her community about their eye health. After years of tireless work, most people in her community have been referred to eye care and/or have undergone treatment to correct vision problems.

Indian community health worker tests a woman's visual acuity in her community
Shabnam performs an eyesight test on a local woman in her community.

Just a few blind patients remain, and though they have refused to seek treatment, Shabnam has not given up on helping them. By involving religious leaders in the community who support Operation Eyesight’s efforts, Shabnam has already succeeded in convincing one patient to undergo treatment. Just think, soon Shabnam’s community could be avoidable blindness free!

And Shabnam’s efforts haven’t stopped at fighting avoidable blindness.

Shabnam has been working with Aman Advanced Eye Care ever since she was hired as a health worker, and during that time she has built strong relationships with government organizations like Anganwandi, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the Auxiliary Nurse Midwifery organization.

Through these relationships, Shabnam met a two-year-old girl named Zumera who was being treated at a government-established mother and child care centre.

Shabnam’s heart melted when she met the tiny girl who was very malnourished. At the age of two years, she was a mere 5.4 kg, or 12 lbs! As a mother herself, Shabnam was deeply concerned for Zumera.

Shabnam began to care for Zumera as if she were her own. During her working hours, Shabnam began visiting the care centre twice a day to make sure Zumera was eating healthy amounts of food. She even went so far as to visit Zumera’s home to encourage her parents to feed her eggs, milk and other nutritious foods she needed for her development.

Indian Community Health Worker determined to help little girl
Shabnam holding Zumera like a proud aunt.

Zumera’s family did not take kindly to the intrusion. Annoyed with Shabnam, Zumera’s father asked angrily, “She is our daughter, why do you care? Mind your own business.”

But Shabnam persevered, just as she had when she applied to become a health worker. She was not going to stop until Zumera was healthy again.

In time, Zumera’s parents understood that Shabnam’s efforts were important. Even Zumera’s father recognized Shabnam’s kindness, and he welcomed Shabnam into his home to continue helping his young daughter.

After four months of working with a case worker and Zumera’s parents, the little one started to grow to a healthy weight! She is now 7.7 kg (17 lbs), and is getting better, thanks to Shabnam’s dedication. Zumera is happy and healthy, receiving the nutrition she needs! What’s more, Zumera’s parents are grateful to Shabnam for not giving up.

Indian community health worker trained by Operation Eyesight helps young girl
Zumera’s family is grateful to Shabnam for all her hard work and determination!

Imagine! So much good is being done by one strong woman whose mission it is to help the people around her. And this was all made possible with the support of people like you! Because of your generous donations, Shabnam was offered an opportunity she never dreamed she’d have. Her work is not done, thanks to people like you!

Operation Eyesight's Hospital-Based Community Eye Health Program addresses avoidable blindness at the community level
Shabnam with other community health workers, are all working hard to educate their communities to eliminate avoidable blindness!

There are so many women like Shabnam who have the passion and desire to make a difference, and you can help them! Donate today to our Community Outreach Program to empower other caring women like Shabnam to make a difference. Together, we can create a world where eye health is important to everyone!