Kumar felt helpless when his daughter decided to spend the money she had saved for her marriage on his cataract surgery. “Bade aspatal mein ilaj karvana chahti thi (She wanted my treatment to be done at a big hospital),” he says. The next day a mobile van arrived in the village and ophthalmologists conducted screening of eye defects for the villagers. Kumar’s name was registered by the “kind doctor for free surgery.”
But his daughter was not ready to believe the ‘free surgery’ promise. “Mujhe laga koi jhol hai (I thought it was a hoax.),” she says. But a van arrived the following week and many of the elders from the village, along with her Baba, were taken to the Rotary Eye Hospital in Sangamner (Maharashtra). “They took care of everything — our food, stay medicines and the fees,” she adds.
She couldn’t thank the doctors enough and was curious to know “why so much care was showered for free?” A staff member at the Rotary Eye Hospital introduced her to a few Rotarians. “I am never going to forget them. My daughter’s savings will be used for her marriage, Rotary ne sharminda hone se bacha liya (Rotary saved me from feeling helpless),” says Kumar.
What started as an eye check-up ward by RC Sangamner, D 3132, in the local municipal hospital back in 1990 has today transformed into a full-fledged eye care facility at Sangamner. It has a computerised OPD, uses latest equipment and has completed 21,000 surgeries till date, all thanks to “the untiring efforts of our club members and generous donations from Rotarians from all over the world, TRF and other charitable organisations,” says Rtn Dilip Malpani.
The club conducts regular camps at 7 Tahasils in Ahmednagar province, with a population of 1.5 lakh, using its own well equipped van. Patients are screened for cataract and other vision problems and registered for surgery.
Also listed as a Model Rotary Service Project, the hospital takes care of the patients’ pre-surgery tests, IOL lenses, and all free. Post surgery guidance and post operative follow-ups at regular intervals to ascertain sight restoration are also done. Each year 10,000 villagers are screened at 100 camps; the student eye check initiative of the club tests school students in the region for early detection and treatment of vision problems.