Freelance Nomad

Monday, February 05, 2007

Eye Camps 2007

The team from Vision Aid Overseas were in town last month to run a series of Eye Camps. For the third year in a row - who could have imagined that? - I tagged along for a couple of the rural camps.

The dedication of the team really is remarkable. After flying over from the UK (they pay for their own flights, using their annual leave to come) they undertake a whistlestop schedule of 10 camps in two weeks, providing eye tests for more than 2000 people. Spectacles are dispensed on the spot and referrals made for operations where necessary - usually for cataracts.

VAO provides the optometrists and covers expenses whereas Deep Griha Society handles all the logistics, providing volunteers, translators, transportation and so on. Half of the camps are in urban centres, with the others in rural areas. Kadambari - the all round superwoman responsible for liaising with the villages - does a remarkable job of getting things organised. In the months leading up to the visit, she will go from village to village and persuade each Panchayat (village council) and Sarpanch (village head) to host the camps.

On the day, the VAO team are picked up by minibus and taken to the village. The DGS staff arrive in another vehicle with all the spectacles and equipment. Remarkably quickly, things are set up and the eye tests begin. People are registered, screened, tested and then given prescriptions as necessary. Perhaps as many as 250 people will be seen in one day.
The VAO team are usually welcomed at the start of the day by the Sarpanch. They'll typically be garlanded or given a blessing. When I tag along, I invariably get mistaken for one of the optometrists - in 2005 I was introduced once as 'Dr Paul'; last year it was 'Paul Madam'. Actually, I find it a little bit embarrassing because really I'm just a bystander rather than a member of the team. In this photo, despite my initial protests, I've just had a turban wrapped around around my head - a first for me.

This is Ramdas. As you can see, Ramdas has no arms. I escorted him through registration, and screening. Once we got to the (long) queue for the actual eye test, I was unsure whether to fast-track him through or not. But as a couple of people in the queue were happy to point out, "No, no, he's normal, he can wait." Quite right, I thought. I felt bad for being so patronising. Ten minutes later, Ramdas sneaks up and asks if he can jump the queue. Hey ho. In the end he walked off with two pairs of spectacles - for both close-up and distance vision. Another satisfied customer.

Schoolchildren practicing for the Republic Day celebrations to be held the next day, on 26 January.

Inquisitive locals Sachin and Subash look in at the window.


  • At 4:06 am, Blogger Jasmeet said…

    Welcum back to blogsphere Pablo, and it sickens mee, you stayed with for more than an year but still failed (or never really bothered) to learn the intricacy of tying a Turban, next time try a neater version aye!


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