Hopefully, in the last 12 months. Even simple eye conditions can lead to loss of sight if left untreated.
More than 70% of India’s population lives in rural areas, with little access to eye care. Usually there is no resident eye doctor, and you might have to travel 200 miles to have your vision checked or to buy eyeglasses.
This is why Aravind created the Spectacles for Scholars program. Last year, Aravind’s Spectacles for Scholars program screened 40,000 plus children and provided eyeglasses for more than 5,000 students, who could not afford them otherwise. But that is really the tip of the iceberg! The World Health Organization estimates that worldwide more than 12 million children, ages 5 to 15, are visually impaired and need to have glasses.
Originally, our Spectacles for Scholars program could only serve schools near our Madurai hospital. But thanks to your generous donations, we have expanded the program to our hospitals in Coimbatore, Salem and Theni. Aravind doctors and nurses provide free screening of school children and also train teachers to recognize the signs of poor vision, before it starts to affect a child's academic performance. Often, the results are miraculous -- a child goes from failing in school to straight A's just because he can see the chalk board or she can read her text book.
In 2014, we will be expanding the program to all ten of our hospitals in southern India, more than doubling the number of children screened and ensuring that more than 10,000 children receive new eye glasses. We hope we can count on your support to help us reach this ambitious goal!
The pediatric cancer ward at Aravind Eye Hospital-Madurai is a bright, bustling place. Volunteers have painted vividly colored murals on the walls of the playroom and patient ward, featuring favorite characters from comics and movies. Dr. Usha, who presides over the ward with grace and calm, wears beautiful saris and has a smile for every one of her young patients.
Most of the children here are suffering from retinoblastoma -- a virulent form of eye cancer that affects primarily children under the age of 5. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential, but, sadly, in rural India, that is not usually the case. Lack of awareness means that Dr. Usha and her staff frequently see extremely advanced cases of retinoblastoma. Then, there is no option but to remove the eye in order to save the child’s life. And, in some cases, it may still be too late.
Two-year old Nagoor Meeran (name changed) came to Aravind Eye Hospital-Madurai, with a painful red eye. When he was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, his parents refused to believe it and hesitated to start treatment. They said that they would come back for a follow-up visit in a week. They never showed up -- the hospital staff tried to contact them by phone, but no one answered their calls. Two different families who had children with retinoblastoma contacted the parents to try to convince them of how important it was to get treatment. But Nagoor’s family was still reluctant to visit the hospital.
Nagoor’s condition worsened over time, and finally, his parents brought him to the hospital. His mother begged the nurse to forget her mistake in not bringing the child to the hospital earlier. Fortunately, the cancer had not spread. Nagoor Meeran had surgery, and returned to the hospital for six cycles of chemotherapy as scheduled. His parents also brought his sisters in for examination, since some retinoblastoma has a genetic cause. All of Nagoor’s treatment expenses were met through Ring of Hope Fund. A very happy ending thanks to our GlobalGiving donors.
Lack of awareness about retinoblastoma remains a serious problem in rural India. Working with Dr. Usha, Aravind created video about retinoblastoma to help educate the community about diagnosis and treatment of this terrible disease.
For most kids in the United States, a vision test is part of their regular annual school check-up. A tearm from Helen Keller International even came to my daughters' school this spring and screened all the kids free of charge. Not long after, several kids were sporting very colorful, new eye glasses.
Unfortunately, in India there is no system of regular check-ups for school children. Vision problems can go undiagnosed for years, and worsen if left untreated. Academic performance is affected -- it's hard to keep up with the rest of the class, if you can't see what is being taught.
Abdulla and Ayisha and their four children live in the Ramananthapuram district of Tamil Nadu. Their second child was struggling to keep up in school, and his teacher suggested that they take him to Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai to have his visition tested. All four children were examined and two of them had refractive errors and needed glasses.
Aravind's Spectacles for Scholars program provides vision screenings for school children free of charge through Aravind Eye Hospitals. Your donations have helped sponsor more than 36,0000 screenings to raise awareness and identify refractory issues and provided 947 eye glasses free of charge to those cannot afford to buy them. Thank you!