Rebuilding Lives and Gaining Independence: Patient Stories from Outreach Camps | #WorldSightDay
The Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation believes large scale investments in sight restoration programs has the ability to transform communities. Those living with needless blindness are granted a second chance to pursue their economic activities, engage in society and make steps towards lifting entire communities out of extreme poverty.
Bindeshwar Sardar is a 63-year-old man who lives with his family in Katahari in Morang, Nepal. Complaining of visual impairment for two years, he was referred to a specialist hospital in Biratnagar for a further check-up. However, living in a remote village, he had little opportunity for work and therefore did not have the financial means to afford surgery. This left him living with needless blindness for years.
Unable to perform most of his work, he limited himself to taking care of the buffalo his family owned. “I can’t even milk the buffalo anymore”, he says. “My daughter-in-law milks the buffalo these days. She has so much household work to look after, and now she has one more responsibility”, he adds.
When the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation screening camp arrived at his village on 15th August, he made his way to the camp to see if anything could be done about his blindness. At the camp, he was invited for his free surgery by the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation.
Bindeshwar’s surgery was performed on 16th August, 2022 by Dr Subash Pokhrel of Ramlal Golchha Eye Hospital in Biratnagar, a partner hospital of the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation. Dr Pokhrel, like the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation, motivation in his career is to work towards identifying and eradicating needless blindness in the region.
The next day, Bindeshwar was happy to return home with restored sight, where he could once again milk his buffalo and take up other work in the village and the home, alleviating his family of the heavy burden of all household duties.
59-year-old Ravilal was already leading a difficult life owing to a disability in his hand when cataract blindness set in, exacerbating his already fragile physical health. He did all he could to remain independent and not become an inconvenience to his family, but as his vision deteriorated, he worried he was going to become completely dependent on them.
When a Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation team set up camp near his village, he had heard of the successes of other camps and duly made his way there. At the camp, eye health personnel confirmed that he was suffering from cataract-induced blindness and he could be cured. He breathed a sigh of relief when the team told him his surgery would be done at no cost to him or his family. As part of the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation’s mission to cure 300,000–500,000 cases of needless blindness by 2030 in the developing world, the foundation funds all aspects of the camps from transportation to aftercare.
Ravilal’s surgery was performed the next day, along with twenty two others from his village who were identified as living with needless blindness. All surgeries were performed by staff that follow the innovative small-incision method developed by co-founder of the foundation, Dr Sanduk Ruit. Patients including Ravilal were cured of their cataract blindness which granted them freedom to go about daily activities that they previously could not do.
Semilal Sardar is an informal construction worker who roofs houses and erect pillars for a living. Having worked from a small age, he lives by his tools. However, for the past year, he had been experiencing difficulty at work.
Unbeknownst to Semilal, he was suffering from cataracts. When asked the reasons for not showing himself to a doctor when his vision began to deteriorate, he told a Tej Kohli & Ruit team that his economic situation did not allow him to do so.
“It is difficult for me to see. I cannot recognise a person from this short distance as well”, he tells us. Despite his blindness, he has had to continue working. “When I look at the roof I am working on, it looks aligned from the centre. However, when I look at it from the right, I realise I am off by at least 4 inches. It is becoming really difficult”, he tells us.
Semilal’s surgery was performed the day after he was confirmed to be suffering from cataracts induced blindness along with 22 others who identified as living with needless blindness from his village. The Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation cured the entire community of needless blindness, and allowing them a second chance to pursue their economic activities, and thereby helping lift communities out of extreme poverty.
As of August, 2022, the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation has screened almost 150,000 people, and has cured more than 18,500 people of needless blindness in Nepal. In the same month, the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation also began a new chapter in Bhutan. Under the Royal Patronage of Her Majesty Gyalyum Kesang Choeden Wangchuck and in collaboration with the Ministry of Health of the Royal Government of Bhutan, the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation screened 1619 people and cured 246 people of needless blindness in the kingdom.
With such interventions, the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation hopes by 2030 that it would have made a significant impact to Goal 1 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of ending extreme poverty everywhere.
The Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation was founded in March 2021 by London philanthropist Tej Kolhi and Kathmandu ‘God of Sight’ Dr Sanduk Ruit. As of November 2022 the NGO had screened 170,022 patients and cured 22,663of blindness at 91 outreach camps in Nepal, Bhutan and Ghana. The Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation is a restricted fund operating under the auspices of Prism The Gift Fund, registered UK charity number 1099682. The Foundation targets the #1 United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of reducing poverty by making large-scale surgical interventions to cure blindness at the grassroots in the developing world. All treatments are provided completely free, with 100% of the funding coming from Tej Kohli and the Kohli family.