How biking to work saved Shubhanker’s sight in India

For 14-year-old Shubhanker Orbis’s electric bikes kick started his journey to sight saving treatment. For Community Health Workers Seema and Bandana, an electric bike has helped them reach many more patients with sight saving screenings.

So this August 3rd on Cycle to Work Day we take you to India, to celebrate the environmentally friendly methods of travel our Community Health Workers are using to deliver eye screenings to remote communities.

Community Health Workers running door to door screenings

Shubhanker’s Story

Shubhanker lives in a remote part of Darjeeling, West Bengal. He knows just how isolating an eye condition can be when you have no access to eye care services and treatment.

For a year Shubanker suffered from blurry vision in his right eye. His father, Hirakant, had consulted with numerous hospitals to find out what was wrong.

“We were told Shubhanker has ‘Channi’ which means cataracts in his right eye. It was difficult to accept that such a young boy could have this problem.

Shubhanker is diagnosed with 'channi’ which means cataracts in his right eye
Shubhanker is diagnosed with 'channi’ which means cataracts in his right eye

But the family couldn’t afford the expensive treatment he needed. Over time Shubhanker’s vision slowly got worse. He started to find it difficult to study and play with friends. It became challenging to read and write and he was forced to stop playing cricket, his favourite sport.

Across the world a child like Shubhanker goes blind every minute. Cataract is the leading cause of blindness in children - yet with the right help, it is easily treatable.

One day a Community Health Worker arrived in Shubhanker’s village on an e-bike. Shubhanker was able to receive a vision screening on his doorstep.

“We were referred to the Vision Centre for a secondary evaluation and told that he would need cataract surgery at a hospital in West Bengal. I had heard of the hospital before but had been hesitant to visit due to the cost. But it came as a huge relief when we were informed the treatment would be offered for free.”

E-Bikes Make Reaching Communities Easier

For Seema and Bandana, Community Health Workers from Bagdogra, the e-bike has changed everything

Seema and Bandana set off for a day of vision screenings
Seema and Bandana

“The communities we need to screen live in rural areas away from main roads and where public transport doesn’t exist. Before we received our e-bikes, providing vision screenings at schools or on doorsteps was often challenging

“We would travel by public transport, and usually multiple forms of transport to reach our destination. We would also need to factor in that the buses run depending on the number of passengers and the stops needed.

“We would then have to search for a particular school or a child’s home and walk from one place to another. Spending valuable time travelling when we could have been screening.

“Having access to an e-bike has made reaching remote locations easy. They have almost doubled the number of patients we can see each day and have massively improved the quality of service we can deliver.

“We feel a sense of pride that we are able to help many more children who are in need of treatment, and using an environmentally friendly method of travel to do so.”

Shubhanker’s Vision Is Restored

Shubhanker after cataract surgery
Shubhanker after cataract surgery

It is easy to imagine how a child like Shubhanker might never have received the treatment he needed.

But the following day after cataract surgery Shubhanker’s whole family were there to see his bandage removed. The room was completely quiet with his family desperate to see his sight restored.

When the bandage came off Shubhakar smiled and it was clear the operation had been a success. His family were relieved and delighted.

“We just wanted to see that smile on his face once again. Now he can go back to school and continue his studies.”

Thanks to You

Electric bikes not only ensure our programmes are as environmentally friendly as possible, they help us save vision and change the lives of children like Shubhanker.

Help us continue to reach more communities and save sight

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