Founded in 2000 by Doctor Lucy Mathen, the UK charity, Second Sight, set itself the target of eradicating cataract blindness in India’s poorest state of Bihar, North East India where poverty and blindness statistics were worse than sub–Saharan Africa.
Lack of available and accessible treatment for early cataracts leads inevitably to blindness. It affects all age groups, not just the elderly, resulting in loss of ability to work and maintain families. In rural areas 70% of children were found to be at risk of childhood blindness as a result of malnutrition and vitamin A deficiency.
In the early 2000s, many hospitals had the necessary equipment to perform surgery but this lay unused due to the lack of qualified eye surgeons. Adopting a “no office, no salaries, no expenses policy” Second Sight plugged this gap by providing visiting eye surgeons from the UK to perform the cataract operations. Outreach work focussed on assessing and transporting villagers to the treatment centres.
Nearly 20 years on and over 450,000 people have had their sight restored.
Keswick Rotary Club, together with Keswick Inner Wheel, have supported Second Sight since 2009 raising thousands of pounds. Every £20 raised restores sight to a person suffering from unecessary blindness.
The charity has very much responded to the need to become sustainable within the community with Second Sight Surgeons training and working alongside local medics. Surgery and treatment can now be provided by locally based teams; no longer dependent upon foreign volunteer nationals visiting to provide such treatment. Second Sight is on target to achieve its goals with financial assistance due to end March 2021.
The professional ethos and high standards instilled in the treatment centres has enabled them to successfully withstand the Covid-19 pandemic and remain operational.
Preventative treatment such as Vitamin A supplement treatment for young children and eye disease education is also now a feature of the charity’s work.
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