Children in India with avoidable eye conditions

Meet Five Children from India with Hope in Reach

India is home to the largest number of blind children in any one country and 9.3 million children with visual impairment. Considering a significant number of these cases are completely avoidable, we have been fighting to change this by improving the quality of pediatric eye care through dedicated projects, like our REACH initiative.

Below, be inspired by the stories of five amazing children from India who are thriving thanks in part to the support of Orbis teams, our amazing partners and kind supporters, who have been working side-by-side to deliver quality eye care for school-aged children through REACH (Refractive Error Among Children)

Prathna’s Horrible Headaches Cured With a Simple Pair of Glasses

Prathna likes football and enjoys her studies

Prathna can play football with ease with her new spectacles.

Like many other students, Prathna, had to continue her school studies virtually during the pandemic. Soon after, she started to experience persistent headaches, which affected her studies.

With little knowledge about refractive error or other eye conditions, the 14-year-old girl and her family consulted a neurologist and took a course of medication for more than six months—and were disappointed when nothing changed for Prathna’s vision.

Thankfully, the solution would be much simpler!

After a screening by the REACH team at her home and another at the Shivmandir Vision Center, she was prescribed a pair of glasses. Prathna told us: “I was so happy wearing the spectacles simply because my headaches were completely gone, for the first time in many months.”

She added: “Thanks to my spectacles, I can do all the things that I love mostplay football and study without straining my eyes”.

Why is addressing refractive error so crucial?

Vision and learning are closely related to each other. Globally, more than 12 million children below the age of 15 have uncorrected refractive errors. They not only suffer poor vision, but also face critical setbacks in development since 80% of learning is visual.

Rohith Remembered Reach After a Severe Eye Injury

Rohith severely damaged his eye after a palm tree accident

Rohith's left eye was damaged after an accident with a palm tree.

Rohith, a young villager in southwest India, grew up with perfect vision and healthy eyesight. However, two years later, this completely changed. After watching his dad trim branches of a palm tree, a small, sharp stick hit Rohith, deeply injuring his left eye. The injury soon began to take its toll and Rohith struggled to manage daily tasks with deteriorating vision.

One failed round of treatment and an unsuccessful surgery later, Rohith suddenly remembered our REACH project and the team who had come to screen his eyes at his school a few years earlier. He remembered that there was an Orbis-supported hospital in Bangalore, which treated referral cases from the program.

Rohith's Journey to Regaining Healthy Sight

Read His Full Story

There, Rohith was told by a retina consultant that he would need urgent surgery to repair his damaged eye.

The surgery went well, and Rohith could not wait to get back to normal life again— going out for a walk, playing with his friends, and watching TV like many kids his age do!

What does REACH do?

REACH aims to reduce visual impairment due to uncorrected refractive error among school-going children and provide a sustainable and scalable solution to a shortage of care for this problem. Orbis, along with our partners, develops teams of ophthalmic personnel and supports them with digital and clinical equipment to perform screenings and provide spectacles, as well as referrals for children who require further examination and treatment.

Shubhankar Can Play Cricket Again After Losing His Sight to a Cataract

Shubhankar likes playing cricket

A delighted Shubhankar can enjoy his favorite sport, cricket, again.

When Shubhankar’s vision started to blur from a cataract during the height of the pandemic, his father, a truck driver, worried about the cost and whereabouts of treatment since the family moved around so much. With three other children to care for, they also didn’t have the means to pay for it.

As time went on, Shubhankar’s vision deteriorated, making it difficult for him to study and play with friends.

Slowly, as it became challenging to read and write, he started drifting away from school and would hardly step out to play cricket, his favorite game.

Thankfully, a door-to-door visit by the REACH team identified the young boy’s blurred vision and hazy eyes and referred him for secondary evaluation at Shivmandir Vision Center, and later to an Orbis partner hospital for cataract removal surgery.

Shubhankar’s relieved father told us: “We had heard about the hospital earlier but were hesitant to visit due to cost implications. It came as a huge sigh of relief when the team at the vision center informed us that the treatment would be offered for free to Shubhankar.

After a whole year of living with the cataract, the boy is so happy now and talks to everyone with a huge smile on his face.

That’s just what his family was waiting for: a confident and cheerful Shubhankar who can excel at school again!

Rudranil’s Glasses Make Everything Look Brighter and More Beautiful

Rudranil loves wearing his new glasses

Rudranil's sight has been transformed thanks to the support of REACH.

Rudranil had been complaining about his blurry vision, but because of COVID, his father didn’t want to risk an infection by going to the district hospital for a check-up.

Fortunately, our REACH team had been going door-to-door in his village and left a referral card with a contact number and the address of Shivmandir Vision Center, which is close to their home.

The young boy went with his father to the center the very next day where he was diagnosed with high myopia (near-sightedness). The 10-year-old was all too thrilled to choose his first pair of glasses as he had been admiring the glasses his father and sister wore for a while.

Back at school, Rudranil proudly told his friends all about the screening and the array of spectacle frames there. He also told them all about the positive changes in his vision and how his glasses made everything look brighter and more beautiful.

Thanks to our young vision advocate and, of course, the wonderful REACH project, four of Rudranil’s classmates were persuaded to go along for their screenings—with two of them being diagnosed with refractive error and prescribed glasses as well.

Glasses Make the World of Difference for Bookworm Manasa

Manasa enjoys reading books

Manasa can finally enjoy reading her books with her new glasses.

Storybook enthusiast, Manasa, started experiencing blurred vision and headaches while studying, but she just ignored the problem.

Fortunately for the 15-year-old, the REACH team from Bangalore West Lions Eye Hospital was leading screenings at her school and identified her with high myopia (near-sightedness) in both of her eyes, and Manasa was asked to choose her first pair of spectacles.

A delighted Manasa needed to convince her parents why wearing her glasses was extremely important for her vision and career prospects. She said: “No one in my family wears spectacles. This made it difficult for my parents to believe that I can be prescribed with some. As they began realizing how a simple pair of spectacles can help me do better in my studies, their perspective changed.”

Now, Manasa is more confident wearing her new pair of spectacles, eagerly looking forward to reading more stories through her glasses.

Thanks to You, These Five Children Have Hope Within Reach

So there we have it: five children’s lives dramatically transformed thanks to the REACH project helping relieve the burden of blindness and vision impairment, not just now, but for years to come. In most cases, a simple, cost-effective pair of spectacles is all it took to get their lives back on track again.

With your continued support, more children like Prathna, Rudranil, Shabhankar, Manasa, and Rohith can see better, excel at school, live life to the fullest, and achieve much more.

2022 marks our 40th anniversary of using innovation to fight avoidable blindness. Through initiatives like our dedicated country programs and working side-by-side with our partners in India and across the world, we have been able to strengthen eye health systems and empower eye care teams with the skills and knowledge to fight preventable blindness and visual impairment on their own.

A huge thank you to Orbis India, our wonderful partners, and kind supporters who are ensuring millions of children can reach their full potential.

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