World Sight Day, celebrated on the second Thursday of October every year, is an important advocacy and communications opportunity for the eye health community. It is a great time to engage with a wider audience – a patient’s family, those who seldom get an eye exam, and emphasize why eye health needs everybody’s attention. On October 8 this year, The Hans Foundation (THF) in collaboration with the Department of Disability Affairs, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India, organized an awareness drive to avoid blindness and free eye check-up camps at various locations in Delhi and seven additional states.
As a starting point, the objective of the camp was to sensitize people on the significance of taking care of eyes and how it can lead to avoid preventable blindness. Judiciously those areas were selected where people were from low economic background. More specifically, the aim was to help preventable blindness in this population through screening and educating people, involving the community.
Saksham, Sai Retina Foundation, SightLife, Score Foundation, National Association for the Blind (NAB) and Dr. R.P Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences (AIIMS) came forward to support the activities on World Sight Day with THF.
About 650 people were screened at the free vision screening camps organized at three locations in Delhi (Dilshad Garden, Trilokpuri and Kubool Nagar). At Trilokpuri, The Hans Foundation conducted the eye screening camp in partnership with R.P. Centre, the Opthalmic arm of AIIMS Rotary Hospital, more than 400 people from surrounding areas of Mayur Vihar, Kalyanpuri attended the camp. From the total number of people screened, based on the results, some were suggested to undergo eye surgeries and others were referred for vision defects, follow up tests, spectacles distribution and treatment. Special awareness drives were also conducted through kiosks at six metro stations – Kashmere Gate, Vishwavidyalaya, Anand Vihar, Uttam Nagar East, Janakpuri and Shahdara to educate people of the various vision related problems and on curbing vision related impairment. The endeavour also turned out to be a networking opportunity for the NGO partners who came together with the common aim of reducing avoidable blindness.
Testimonial from THF Team present on Kashmere Gate Metro Station on World Sight Day 2015
“Students, professionals, young and old appreciated the initiative and found it to be significant in building awareness. I am inspired and motivated to hold more of such campaigns in future on issues affecting the common masses. THF should continue to collaborate with like-minded partners and Government bodies for such events.”Jagrity Sharan, Program Manager, THF
“It was personally a fulfilling and humbling experience to be a part of the campaign and be an active agent of change. The response of public was encouraging as many were sensitized and came forth to pledge their eyes and promised to encourage their family and friends to do the same.”Neha Deepak, Program Manager, THF
Apart from this, THF through its Medical Mobile Services projects implemented across the country also conducted free Eye check-up camps through its partners. These camps were organised in Nine states through eleven partners. THF Partner NGOs who organised these camps were, Hope Foundation (J&K), Cost Trust and Sri Dakshinya Bhava Samithi (Tamil Nadu), Aadharshila (New Delhi), Harijan Adiwasi Rural Development Society (Andhra Pradesh), Centre for Education Centre Society (Nagaland), Ashray (Gujarat), Shiv Shiksha Samiti (Rajasthan), Gramin Mahila Vikas Sansathan (Rajasthan), National Association of Man for Mankind and Sabuj Sangh (West Bengal).
One such attendee was Omni, 43, a local shopkeeper, who hailed from Kalyanpuri and had visited the camp with his wife and children. Sharing his experience, he said, “Government hospitals such as AIIMS and concerned organizations such as The Hans Foundation should conduct such camps regularly. It would also help a great deal if they could have people explain to us the right way of taking care of our eyes. This way we could have a better understanding of helping ourselves and our near and dear ones with proper eye care.”
Sharing his thoughts on the effectiveness of the free eye-camps conducted by The Hans Foundation, Dr. Praveen Vashisht from Dr. RP Center for Opthalmic Sciences, AIIMS said, “The major causes of blindness in India are cataract and refractive error. These two causes can be very easily avoided by means of surgeries and spectacles respectively. Such eye health awareness camps are right steps towards helping to avoid 80 per cent of blindness in our country. Through this camp, the message should go out to everyone that avoidable blindness could and should be eliminated. “If one day of awareness campaign has benefited over 400 people, the numbers are likely to grow as more awareness activities take place.”
Rani Devi, 57, Grandmother of four, shared that the eye check-up camp has helped her understand how prevention is important. She was having trouble with her left eye and was suggested by her family to get her eye checked up at the camp. It turned out that she had developed cataract in her left eye. Had she not come to the camp, she would have delayed in knowing the condition of her eye.
Thanks to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the partner hospitals and NGOs, the free eye check-up camps held on World Sight Day were successful, where more than 2500 people received proper information on eye health care which would go a long way in diminishing preventable blindness.