Sabene Gomes explains the role of Vision Guardians after seeing their work in action on a recent project trip to India.
As we pulled up into the village we were visiting, I caught sight of a group of villagers wearing dark glasses.
The group were chatting excitedly to a young man under the shade of a billowing tree.
These people had just been supported to receive cataract surgeries.
And they would soon access low-vision assistive devices through the project we were visiting.
The young man interacting with them turned out to be a partner staff member whose role was a ‘Vision Guardian’.
His name is Binod, and his vigour for life with his shy but hearty smile conveys his dedication to his job and this community as a whole.
First of all, what does a Vision Guardian do?
Vision Guardians like Binod will literally journey alongside our patients to support them and accompany those who are identified for further screening, surgeries and treatments.
Duties of a Vision Guardian when treating individuals with disabilities can include:
- helping identify future patients
- ensuring people with disabilities know about the services available to them
- helping arrange transport and support to attend appointments
- encouraging and supporting patients to access post-operative follow-up
Vision Guardians in this area face more than social and cultural barriers.
However, with this area of India being very steep and hilly, it is covered in dense and sometimes impenetrable forest bushland.
This is why Vision Guardians here must possess resilience. An unwavering devotion to their jobs in order simply to reach beneficiaries each day.
With that, we took a journey via four-wheeler. I suddenly understood the environmental barriers that outreach workers face to simply gain access to those in need. And to think that many do this trek by foot!
Yet, Binod’s impact as a Vision Guardian extends even to an elderly woman.
Explaining her initial fear around surgery, one of the elderly women under the tree spoke up. She attempted to take up the services three times but was too afraid. Finally, with the support of Binod and partner staff, the woman felt confident enough to receive surgery.
They helped her understand the nature of the procedure.
Now with her eyesight restored she proudly acts as an advocate for others in her community. She promotes better protection of their eye-health and influences more people to take up services.
Later, I asked the community members present what would happen if Binod and his colleagues didn’t come knocking on their door. They answered, ‘Nothing. Nothing would have happened.’
Without the Vision Guardians, these countries often don’t know the nature of eye-health conditions or that services are available to them.
In this program, CBM supports the partner through funding for awareness raising, community and school screening programs. We assist in making services accessible to all, through disability and inclusion training of the partner staff.
Photo: A woman who received cataract surgery in India