Eyecare at their doorstep

As Rotary Club of Guindy, RID 3232, celebrates its silver jubilee year, the members are excited about their project Sight Now, which was launched two years ago as a global grant project worth $87,500 to sponsor 900 cataract surgeries. RC Niles Fremont, RID 5170, US, and TRF are the international partners, and Sankara Nethralaya, the implementing hospital. Two vehicles, specially designed by IIT-Madras, are being used to treat people in rural and backward areas where medical facilities are lacking.

Patients after cataract surgery.

Nagammal (65) is a flower seller near Kanchipuram. For the last one year she was confined to her home as she had cataract in both eyes, and depended on her son’s family for everything. “When I was taken to this bus for treatment, I was very nervous. But now, thanks to these Rotarians,  I am able to get back to work and am happy to take care of myself,” she smiles as her fingers deftly string ­jasmine flowers together.

About 120 surgeries were performed at Kanchipuram; and next in a village in Cuddalore district. “In ­Nagapattinam, we tied up with the local Rotary club, RC Nagapattinam, RID 2981, for a 10-day eye camp. Their extensive PR activities brought in 1,000 patients,” says Club President R Sivaraman.

About 150 surgeries were done and  457 more are planned by the year end, he says.

Two buses — one for screening patients and the other with an in-built operation theatre — are driven to the camp site with doctors on board, says Kritika Madhukumar, the club’s PR Chair. The vehicles are equipped with RO plants, gensets, air conditioners and medical equipment.

Cataract is removed through suture-less laser treatment. “It costs about ₹30,000–40,000 for a surgery generally. But for Rotary it is at a subsidised charge of ₹5,750.” The project covers beneficiaries up to 600–700 km radius including parts of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. An ophthalmic team goes to the region one week later to do the follow up.

Sivaraman says that this kind of facility is available only in Chennai and Chhattisgarh, and villagers will lose daily wages if they need to travel. Hence they neglect their eyes.

RC Guindy President R Sivaraman speaking at a camp site in the presence of RID 2981 DG N Manimaran (R) and RID 3232 DG G Chandramohan (second from R).
RC Guindy President R Sivaraman speaking at a camp site in the presence of RID 2981 DG N Manimaran (R) and RID 3232 DG G Chandramohan (second from R).

DGs G Chandramohan (RID 3232) and N Manimaran (RID 2981), congratulated the club members at the valedictory event.

The club has transformed a non-functional school into RC Guindy High School with support from Crompton Greaves. The vocational training centre established in 2009 provides classes in tailoring, doll making, beautician course and computer literacy for underprivileged women in the area.

The club has facilitated computer education, spoken English and Math for 30 academically-weak children of a government school. “We visit and teach them some life skills. A banker teaches them banking procedure. I teach them to sing. Recently we took them to a restaurant and taught them dining etiquettes. They enjoy the one hour they spend with us every week learning too,” smiles Kritika.

The Kottivakkam Centre for Acute Dental Care is another hallmark project of the club. Established in 1998 with a matching grant in association with RC Lorenskog, Norway, “over 20,000 patients have been treated here,” says Sivaraman. A dialysis unit and a health centre are the club’s other healthcare endeavours.

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