Partha’s interest and support ensured that an eye health screening camp could be organised in the school in September and October 2016. “They (pointing towards the project personnel) were here for two days so that they could cover a maximum number of students,” recounts Partha. When the local community health worker associated with Sightsavers’ eye health initiative in Sundarbans approached him, he immediately offered his support. He secured approval from the head master as well. “When I was in Class IX, I could not read the blackboard. Our family condition was not good. I finally got my eyes checked when I was in Class XI. Then, I was told I have minus 5 power,” he recounts. Having experienced difficulties himself, Partha was eager to ensure that his students got the opportunity to get their eye sight tested – a provision offered through the school eye screening component of the project.
He had stood in line with his friends, awaiting his turn with curiosity and excitement. For about five-six months, he had been experiencing headaches. His eyes would also often turn red. A doctor had given him eye drops which had provided temporary respite, but the headaches were back. “I was asked to sit in a chair which was quite far from the board and read what was written on the board. I could not read the letters when they were in the smaller sizes,” he recounts. He was told to visit the Vision Centre, run under the project, with a parent. Overall, about 20 boys were referred to the Vision Centre. “I also followed up with them,” adds Partha. Santanu went to the Centre with his mother. Further examination revealed that he needed spectacles. He received these free of cost.
Santanu is satisfied with the services provided at the screening camp and the Vision Centre. He was treated well. He also visited the Vision Centre later with friends. “One of them could not see properly. The other one used to suffer from neck pain. I went with them,” he shares. However, he admits that he does not wear his spectacles all the time as advised. Partha shakes his head in disapproval. “I always try to explain the importance of taking care of their eyes, of wearing spectacles. If they don’t do this now, they will suffer,” he shares.
In the past one year, Partha has also helped a child with cataract to connect with the project and undergo surgery free of cost. He also put the local community health worker in touch with the headmistress of a neighbouring girls’ high school (it too was subsequently covered under the school screening component). He is appreciative of the efforts made by the project in increasing awareness about eye health and related services in the area.
“Parents are slowly getting conscious. Many are from below the poverty line families and this kind of support helps them,” he states. “Also, we can do some more awareness about maintaining good eye health, good nutrition and some danger signs,” he adds.