SHINE Humanity volunteer has a "positive experience" visiting flood affectees
Dr. Ayesha Simjee, an opthamologist from Southern California, has volunteered her services in over 25 countries. She recently returned from Pakistan where she provided basic emergency eye care to the Pakistan flood victims. Although she was saddened by much of what she saw she found the overall experience to be a positive one. She recounts details of her trip below.
Surgical Eye Expedition in Santa Barbara California has arranged most of my trips to perform eye surgeries abroad. They do not support natural disaster relief work, but because of my 20 year association with them, they did provide me with many supplies for my trip including; antibiotics, eye drops and other basic emergency eye care supplies. SHINE Humanity was the receiving organization that provided logistical support for me in Pakistan. Many of the other supplies I needed I acquired on my own
It was quite a struggle for me to get to Pakistan. I arrived four days passed my scheduled arrival date, because it was difficult for me to attain a visa.
When I finally arrived in Islamabad I was met by a SHINE Humanity agent. We had little time to waste, so we immediately set off on a three hour drive to the SHINE Humanity facility in Charsadda, KPK.
In Charsadda SHINE Humanity connected me with the non-profit Sarhad Rural Support Program (SRSP). I was warmly received by their agent Khalid Jaan. I stayed with his family during the three days that I worked in Charsadda. After that I went to six villages. We visited a different village every morning. I saw 70 to 100 patients every day. Most of the patients had eye infections due to contamination from the flood waters. Most infections were treatable, but if those infections had been neglected, then it would have had a negative impact on the patient's vision.
I also saw patients with Glaucoma and Cataracts. These problems were not related to the floods, but it was clear to me that most of these people had never had any eye care prior to my visit.
On of the challenges for me was the language barrier. Most of the locals spoke Pashtu or Punjabi. SRSP helped me by always providing me with a social worker/interpreter who accompanied me on all my trips.
Because of the volume of patients that I was seeing every day I quickly ran out of supplies, so I bought local supplies. I was shocked to see that medicine that costs $40 here in the U.S. only costs $.50 in Pakistan.
It was very sad to see so much devastation, and what it has done to the people of Pakistan, but over all I had a positive experience. I was so well received by all of the organizations that hosted me, by the social workers that assisted me, and Khaled Jaan and his family. Most of all I knew that the patients appreciated my help.