A story of freedom — from complete blindness to independence | #2030InSight
Jungalee Majhi spent his entire adult life farming the land of his landlord. While on special occasions he would be paid in cash, most of the time he would return home with a bag full of grains. With the infrequent cash payments, there was nothing for him to save causing him and his family to spend their days in poverty, in a hut they had built on unclaimed land.
Jungalee lives in a two room house in Jugaliya in the Rautahat district of Nepal in a community is made up of squatters. Being a Dalit, which is the lowest caste within the Hindu caste-system, he, and his community have been denied access to equal social goods for generations. This system has pushed them further into the seemingly inescapable cycle of poverty. Therefore, when cataracts blinded him, there was nothing that he could do. The hospital, while being only two hours away physically — was light years away from him financially.
Jungalee shared with a member of the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation that:
“I had a few good years left in me. I could work on my master’s land and earn some grains for us to eat. Now this blindness does not allow me to do anything”,
Jungalee, along with everyone living in his community, were screened in March of 2022 by a Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation team as part of the foundation’s mission to eliminate extreme poverty by curing preventable blindness.
Jungalee, and three other members of his community were identified to be living with cataract blindness and then invited for surgery at a scheduled outreach microsurgical eye camp in Nijgad on 24th, 25th and 26th of March, 2022.
To achieve the objective of identifying and curing as many patients living with needless blindness, the team organized seven screening camps through 15th to 22nd March with a special focus on reaching out to extremely marginalized communities of the region to identify patient’s like Jungalee who were unable to afford or access cataract surgery due to their socio-economic status.
Jungalee’s story was a painful story but much too familiar. Having screened more than 100,000 people in some of the most remote and poor regions of Nepal in the past year, the amount of those living with blindness that could easily be cured is astounding. It is the foundation’s vision to cure as many people of curable blindness in poor communities which also supports the United Nations social development goal of ending extreme poverty.
Unable to work, and with nothing to do, Jungalee would spend his days in darkness, listening to his wife and daughter-in-law playing with his grandson. Jungalee had longed to see his new-born grandson, but he could not do so.
A day ahead of the surgery Jungalee, accompanied by his wife Kaliya, left their home and arrived at the Nijgad camp. It was here that he was given a second chance at life, with his surgery performed Jungalee readied for the following day where his eye patches would be removed.
The next day, along with 304 others by Dr Paudyal, it was time to see the results of the surgery. Even with the surgery being successful, Jungalee still was unable to regain full vision. It was discovered that he had other underlying eye health issues. Even with this, there was still a major improvement in vision. He was now able to perform basic human tasks such as going to the toilet or serving himself his own meal, therefore eliminating his dependency on other household members.
Talking to Jungalee before he left the camp, he shared that:
“Yesterday, I was completely blind. At least today I can see this much. I look forward to going home and playing with my grandson with the little bit of sight I have”.