Every year, for the past 33 years, we have been performing at least 1,000 cataract surgeries for the underprivileged through our Rotary Eye Hospital,” says AG Dilip Malpani, a member of RC Sangamner, RID 3132. The hospital, established in 1989, has expanded over the years, thanks to two matching grants from the UK and US clubs, and two global grants from American and Swiss Rotary clubs.
The land was provided by the municipality and with generous donations from the public and club members the hospital took shape. Equipment was added with support from the National Associations for the Blind and Sightsavers International. Today the hospital boasts of all modern equipment, and full-time qualified surgeons. Two outreach vans visit surrounding villages regularly to conduct screening camps and bring patients with cataract or other eye-related disorders to the hospital for further treatment which is done free of charge. Income from paid surgeries at the hospital helps meet the monthly expenses of ₹8 lakh, and this cross subsidisation also supports replacement of outdated/worn out machines.
Recently a mega squint surgery camp helped fix this disorder in 51 young girls. “This surgery has improved the external appearance of the girls and will boost their self-confidence. The others were schoolchildren and they will now go back to school with renewed confidence,” he says. The camp provided medicines and spectacles for 150 patients. Since its existence, the hospital has gifted eyesight to over 25,000 economically weak patients across five villages.
The 45-year-old club, through a GG, recently distributed 655 computer tablets with pre-loaded audio-visual content of the syllabus to 33 zilla parishad schools. This will benefit 1,900 first-generation students from marginal families. These schools have just 1–2 teachers to handle 4–5 classes. The project will definitely help these students in improving their learning and understanding of various subjects, says Malpani. RC Poona North, RID 3131, was its synergy partner and RC Miao-Li Tung Flower, RID 3500, Taiwan, was the international partner for the project. RCs Panchgani and Akluj also contributed to the cause.
With the support of district funds and member contributions, the club donated sewing machines to 61 families that had lost their earning members to Covid. Training in tailoring was arranged for them. “Today they are able to earn at least ₹500 a day, a small sum, but something to boost their confidence and hope. We are also planning to get them orders,” he smiles. Enthused by the success of this project, the club distributed atta chakki (grinding machines), sponsored by Rtn Krishna Boob from Pune, to 111 Covid-affected families to support their livelihood.
Every year, during Diwali, the club, along with its Rotaract club, distributes food packets, sweets and clothes to at least 200 families.