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Ganga’s story

“I went and checked the hospital. I also followed up with the patients. If they don’t get good service, news will spread in the field,” asserts forty year old Ganga Haldar who has been working as an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) in Sankijahan in Kultali in South 24 Parganas since 2008. Ganga, as an ASHA worker under the Government of India’s National Health Mission, has been tasked with spreading awareness and connecting communities and service providers for improving a range of reproductive and child health, nutrition and sanitation outcomes. She knows that one bad experience can undo all the good work and drastically impact community perceptions and access. “This is about eyesight and people are very sensitive about that,” she adds. She is happy to note that the chain of trust – of local community members trusting her advice in accessing services under the Sightsavers supported project and then her own trust in the personnel and quality of facilities offered – has only grown stronger with time.

Ganga came to know about the project in March 2016 when project team members raised awareness amongst the key health functionaries and ASHAs at the Jamtala Block Primary Health Centre. She shared her phone number with the local community health worker. She had become aware of a range of eye health related problems while making household visits and undertaking various community level activities as an ASHA worker. “Sometimes children’s eyes watered or they became red. They bathe in the ponds and the water is not always clean. So maybe they developed eye related problems because of that. There were a lot of cataract cases among the elderly,” she states. She was happy to pitch in. “Why will I not help? After all, I am here to help the mothers and their families,” she affirms.

For more than a year now, Ganga has been recommending people with eye related concerns to visit the local Vision Centre initiated and managed with support from Sightsavers. She has helped inform community members about eye camps held under the project. She has also talked to people who had been recommended cataract surgeries but were apprehensive. “Everybody wants me to go with them. But that is not always possible. I tell them… you go. You will find that they will take good care of you,” she shares.

Ganga has seen a lot of changes in terms of increasing awareness and access among her community members on health (including eye health) in the last eight to nine years. But she feels that a lot more remains to be done. “More awareness activities would help. For instance, people are selling paddo madhu (honey from lotus) in haats (local market) and saying that if you put it in the eyes, you won’t get cataract. We need to check and inform people about what they should do,” she points out. She is hopeful that sustained efforts will help dispel misconceptions and she is ready to help.


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