Seeing the joy of sight

Optical volunteer India 2014

Equal Health's catch phrase - a life changing appointment - sums up my personal experience going to India with Equal Health as part of their 2013 camp.

Equal Health offers some of India's rural poor a chance to see a health professional at one of their yearly clinics. The task is massive, almost impossible, as there are so many people needing help.


It was my first time to India and what a shock it was to see how the poor of India cope with daily life, the things we take for granted, fresh water, reliable power supply, sanitation, healthcare, schooling, money, transport and having a place to live are either mediocre, unreliable or are not available unless you are wealthy.

On the particular camp I attended in southern India, there were doctors and nurses, dentists and assistants, optometrists and dispensers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and dieticians.

I attended the camp as an optical dispenser, taking the optometrist's script and selecting frames closest possible in power to the required script, fitting and adjusting them to fit the individual.

The people coming in for eye tests varied in age from 6 to 80, though most of them declare their age as 40 to 50 because they don't know their age. There was a considerable amount of people suffering serious eye problems, with cataracts being the main offender. Some of the lucky ones were given the chance of surgery with the generous help of local Indian ophthalmologists.

There were many memorable patients who touched my heart. A little girl maybe 5 or 6 years old who had not had glasses before and was a high plus +7D, just beamed this huge smile when I fitted the frames on her. She didn't want me to take them off to adjust the temple length.

There was an old lady who looked around 70 years old (her card said 45 years old) she was hunched over and struggling to walk. She was a very high plus, I think +12.00D, and she had no glasses on. When I fitted a pair of glasses on her she had this massive smile and started talking non-stop, she was holding my hands almost crying. It was a good moment to be able to help someone so deserving.

There were so many grateful people who truly appreciated the glasses that we supplied, the whole experience of being able to help them and their responses will always be something I will never forget.

If you have ever thought about volunteering your time for a worthy cause overseas, to help people who are less fortunate than us Australians, to experience another country's culture and offer help through an organised aid program, then please consider Equal Health.

Roger Henley, Spectacle frame designer and manufacturer, India Camp 2013 volunteer, Adelaide.

Roger was part of an outreach team focused on helping small villages in the south of India, with the first clinic in Amore, about 1.5 hours south of Trichy or 8 hrs south of Chennai, a place of rice paddies, coconut plantations, cows and people. He also participated in other camps at Pettavaithalai further south of Amore and at Poompuhaar. Each clinic ran for 2 to 3 days.
Clinics were set up in school buildings or community centres with the help of SEVAI, an Indian Equal Health partner that is actively involved in the local community. SEVAI helps the local community with education, water quality improvements, sanitation, agriculture, housing and numerous other activities. SEVAI supply the interpreters and necessary staff and logistics to help run the remote clinics.