One day last November, Rajhardi, who lives in rural Patehria in Uttar Pradesh, India's largest state, walked barefoot for more than three miles to a neighboring village. He was headed for an eye clinic supported by TPRF and its counterpart in India, Prem Sagar Foundation (PF), where he was examined and fitted with prescription eyeglasses at no cost.
“Earlier my vision was blurred,” he said. “But now I am seeing much clearer.”
From November 5-December 4, in an effort underwritten by $30,000 from TPRF, volunteers from Raj Vidya Kender (RVK), an Indian service organization with ties to Prem Sagar Foundation, organized two-day clinics in five remote locations in northern India. At these clinics operated by volunteers, poor villagers could be examined for free by eye doctors and get eyeglasses, medicines, and referrals for further care as needed.
Organizers reported that 6,944 people attended the clinics. A total of 5,021 pairs of eyeglasses were given out, 6,152 eye-drop medications dispensed and 626 patients given referrals for cataract surgery.
For many of the clinics' beneficiaries, something as simple as getting a pair of glasses was a life-changing event.
“I am really feeling very good,” said a woman who attended the clinic in Bantoli, a tiny village near Ranchi in Jharkhand, where TPRF opened its first Food for People facility a few years ago. “Now I can cook with my own hands and even pass a thread through the needle. So nice!”
A villager from Hindipidi, Bihar, said, “I had blurred vision in both my eyes. I had been suffering from this eye problem for a long time, but due to not having money, I could not go to the city and get treatment. Doctors in the clinic checked and tested my eyes and gave me spectacles. Now I have full and clear vision, and I am really happy.”
Local officials praised RVK for providing much-needed services to people who live far from medical facilities.
“We all know that the eye is one of the most invaluable gifts nature has bestowed upon us, and therefore its care is of utmost importance,” said District Magistrate A.K. Singh Rathore, who officially opened the clinic in Hardoi, Uttar Pradesh. “But due to ignorance, lack of facilities, and poverty, eye care gets neglected here, and people suffer. By getting needy people's eyes examined in this extremely backward area, the sponsors and organisers have done an exemplary job.”
The Hardoi clinic was held in the DSCL Sugar Mill, one of the region's large employers. “The eye clinic was very much needed in this area,” said Senior Manager B.L.Verma. He said more than 250 of his employees got their eyes examined.
Since 2003, when RVK began hosting the free eye clinics, TPRF has contributed $175,000 that has supported 34 clinics attended by more than 60,000 people.