A couple of days ago myself and another volunteer went on motor bikes with two of the Chingari staff to visit children with severe eye problems with the intention of getting medical appointments for referrals to a specialist Eye Hospital in Chennai. I’ve named it “The Eye Project.” But that presumes there is a beginning a middle and an end, and here in India things do not always take a logical course! I also thought of naming it “The Gift of Sight.” But that is making another presumption that the outcome will be the gift of sight, and that is not a given.
We had 13 children on our list, three I had already seen in Chingari a few days previously, so that left 10 for community outreach visits.
We had intended to visit 5 families on this morning, but our first visit found the family had left that address, by the time we discovered the new address and learnt of the pitiful circumstances that this almost totally blind 6 year old girl’s mother had recently died and she was being cared for by her fifteen year old sister, we had to reduce our visits to 4 as the staff had other pressing matters back at the Centre. This child’s head was lice ridden, her body covered in a rash and her stomach grossly distended. She needed urgent medical treatment yet no-one was concerned enough to take her to the Doctors until we arrived with the Chingari Staff. Even then she had to wait until yesterday to be collected by a health worker for the appointment. I heard today she has been taken to Hamidia Hospital for ultra sound and blood tests.
The remaining 3 visits whilst heart rendering and difficult at least the kids who were blind or going blind were being cared for and in clean although terribly poor homes. Unlike the first visit where it was apparent there was a lack of care. Also all these children lived in different areas and so we were riding around a lot between each visit.
Oh and I got knocked over by a huge bullock who trampled right through us as we were leaving the house, fortunately I was not injured just shook up momentarily and it brought a bit of light relief for all concerned after the agonising third visit to a nine year old boy who was totally blind and being led around by his brother. He even attended school for the benefit of socialisation and was immaculately dressed and clean with good caring but poor parents.
Alas the scene of me going flying as the bullock forged a path through us happened so quickly no-one had time to capture it on camera!
I want to stay here until there is a conclusion to the eye project, but that may be unlikely to happen quickly. The Bhopal Medical Appeal, from Brighton in the UK, provides the running costs for the two clinics but has very limited resources. Tabish said when I asked him:
“Do you ever get compassion fatigue?” after we had visited the fourth child he said “There is an ocean of need here – and it’s sometimes demoralising when you see what needs doing and you simply do not have the resources to do it.”
But I remain optimistic surely some one, somewhere can see what needs to happen and how these kids lives can be totally altered by specialist treatment, turning a dark filled life into a rainbow of colour – hell these kids are all under 12, with the right treatment and care they can have a full life ahead of them.
By Avril Meyler