Changing lives to restore sight-A Story of Hope

Orbis joined hands with Akhand Jyoti in 2016 to not only help the children in six districts of Bihar but also to build the capacity of the team of optometrists and other personnel within the project, most of them being girls.

by Talkad Venkanna Chatura, Program Officer, Orbis

The literacy rate in India has improved from 64.83% in 2001 to 74.04% in 2011 with a decadal difference of 9.21%. States like Bihar with low literacy rate have shown an improvement of 16.82% in 2011 (47% in 2001 to 63.82% in 2011). However, when we look at it closely, the gender-based gap in literacy rate could improve only 4.9% overall in India while Bihar showed an improvement of 6.5% (26.56 % in 2001 to 20.06% in 2011) which is higher than the overall improvement. But the recent National Sample Survey in its 75th round report (2017-18) shows that 47.7% of the females are not literate in Bihar. Education not only gives an opportunity to girls but also helps in providing an enabling environment to grow and resourcefully contribute to family income while also reducing the gender-based differences.

Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital, Mastichak

Orbis partner, Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital, located in Mastichak, Bihar was established in the year 2005. Situated in a rural area, the hospital performs an average of 300 surgeries daily. With an aim towards prevention of blindness in the state of Bihar, Akhand Jyoti also focuses on women empowerment by providing education and gainful employment. Girls from poor socio-economic conditions who do not have access to regular education and resources are not only given a fair chance to study but are also absorbed within the hospital to become optometrists, ophthalmic nurses and experts in other disciplines.

Orbis joined hands with Akhand Jyoti in 2016 to not only help the children in six districts of Bihar but also to build the capacity of the team of optometrists and other personnel within the project, most of them being girls.

With support from Orbis, Akhand Jyoti established the state’s first ever Children’s Eye Center in 2019. Through the project, the staff of the hospital received the opportunity to access training in pediatric ophthalmology and other functions to provide quality pediatric eye care services, of which 11 trainees were girls.

11 female optometrists trained through the Orbis Childhood Blindness Project in Bihar

1

trained in Pediatric Counselling

1

trained in Low Vision and Rehabilitation

1

trained in Pediatric Orthoptics

2

trained in Pediatric Nursing

4

trained in Vision Center Management

2

trained in Quality Management

Female optometrists at an Orbis-Akhand Jyoti school screening program

(T)Winning in eye care

Chhaya and Chhavi at the Orbis partner hospital

Chhaya and Chhavi are the power twin sisters among many of the graduating optometrists at Akhand Jyoti. Both of them found opportunities to learn and implement their learnings under the Orbis supported project at Akhand Jyoti. While Orbis only opens doors, it is girls like Chhavi and Chhaya that make a world of difference with their drive to learn and achieve.

Chhaya, an optometrist and a football player attended an Orbis supported training in Low Vision and Rehabilitation at Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital. Having conceptual understanding on low vision, during her one-month training, Chhaya was able to enhance her hands-on experience on dealing with patients identified with low vision and gained deeper insights about rehabilitation. Along with clinical experience, Chhaya says that she could understand the emotional aspect in dealing with patients with low vision and bring awareness on employment opportunities available for persons with visual impairment.

She also approached the Akhand Jyoti hospital staff to conduct an orientation on low vision and urged them to refer the patients identified with low vision to the low vision clinic she was adamant to setup at the facility. Within two weeks after the training, Chhaya was able to establish the low vision clinic and started providing low vision services to the adult and pediatric patients.

Chhaya screening a patient at an eye camp

With the grit to learn and enthusiasm to apply what she learned, Chhaya also felt the need to create awareness among fellow optometrists by conducting further theoretical sessions on what she has learnt about low vision after a month of her training and identified four fellow optometrists to form a team for second line staff in the low vision clinic that she single-handedly setup. The low vision clinic at the base hospital handled by her today brings hope to the children and adults with low-vision and help them use the aid for daily mobility. Of course, there is no service in the country or even the world which has not been affected due to COVID-19 and Chhaya’s low vision clinic faced low patient flow due to the ongoing situation. But she is passionate and feels she can bring the clinic back to function in full form after the OPD and IPD services have been resumed post multiple COVID-19 lockdown in Bihar.

Having understood the need and importance of bringing awareness about low vision and rehabilitation, Chhaya asserted, “Low vision is different from any other eye care condition, as this provides rehabilitation for patients among whom the vision cannot be improved even after surgical intervention”. It is heartwarming to see her being constantly motivated and expressing her want to continue working for people with low vision while also enhancing her clinical experience.

Chhavi in her role as counsellor

Like Chhaya, her twin sister Chhavi, who is also an optometrist and football player attended pediatric counselling training at Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital; she felt elated about being the first candidate to be trained for counselling at Dr. Shroff's. Chhavi expressed she knew very little about pediatric counselling before the training and said, “I was the first candidate for the training in pediatric counselling at Dr. Shroff’s. I got to learn that it is very important to build rapport with the patient while counselling them, explain the underlying causes and provide necessary counselling to the patient. It was, initially, difficult for me to convince them, after attending the training inpediatric counselling. But now, with hands-on experience, I can motivate the parents of child patients for surgeries. I also visited the field and counselled the parents of identified children for surgery during the (Orbis supported) HBT. This training helped me to understand the softer side of counselling which helps to bond with patients. I feel happy when the patient is back in the hospital for surgery after counselling.” She narrates that once she even visited a patient’s home to follow-up post operation. She remembers the child being gleeful to be able to look at the clear blue sky.

Chhavi and Chhaya practicing football

It was first opportunity for Chhavi and Chhaya to undergo training and work in the project. Chhavi, who is Pediatric Counsellor, also supports the project team as Outreach Coordinator. While conducting outreach activities, Chhavi counsels the children and their parents, if need be, for surgical intervention. Her sister, Chhaya, on the other hand, also expressed her keen interest in research.

Girls like Chhaya and Chhavi with exemplary drive for knowledge and want to contribute to better the lives of children from the underserved community speaks volumes of their potential and ability to grow into leaders who can drive change in the future. Today, both these girls are an example to young girls at Akhand Jyoti who aspire to live independently breaking the barriers of social norms. Their excitement and drive give immense hope-to women around them, to people working with them everyday and to us.