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Maharashtra's Osmanabad district is challenged by drought conditions and arid geography, and it lacks basic infrastructure. The region lacks any proper hospital where the poor people could get their eye tested or get cataract surgery done.
Ravindra Salunke, along with his colleagues at the Rotary Club of Osmanabad, started working on the cause of providing 'vision' to the needy people more than 15 years ago.
Salunke noted that the living conditions of the poor are unimaginable in his district. He wanted to create a permanent project for the community in Osmanabad that will benefit people in the long-run.
Along with his colleagues, when Salunke first started research about the area, he realised that there was no single private hospital in the area of 150 km radius which treated patients with eye diseases.
As per data about the area, there are nearly 15,000 people estimated each year in Osmanabad that suffer from cataract.
The civil hospital in the district could only treat 3,000 people and it meant that the remaining 12,000 people were left untreated.
Taking the problem seriously, and for managing funds for the hospital, used crowd-funding by appealing to each and every family in the district. Through this, they collected a total of ₹67 lakh.
With the crowd-funded money, they were able to purchase land and build hospital. But the struggles to get the hospital totally functioning had only just begun.
It was difficult to get doctors for the hospital in Osmanabad and most of them declined to join learning about the region.
Between 2006 and 2013, the hospital managed to conduct their operations through part-time doctors. Seeing that this could become a problem in the near future, Salunke decided to build a secondary line of paramedics who would take on the duties of the hospital.
Now, the JF Ajmera Rotary Netra Rugnalaya conducts 1,500 cataract surgeries per year, and till now, have treated more than 15,000 patients free of charge. Their reputation has grown to be one of the best eye hospitals in the region.
Now, people from neighbouring areas such as Solapur and Bijapur also travel to the hospital for surgeries. The ratio of surgeries conducted at the hospital is 50% paid and 50% free.
He shares that at times the percentage of free surgeries is more. The profits made from just four surgeries enable the hospital to conduct a camp in the nearby villages, identify a patient, bring them to the hospital, conduct the surgery, give them an overnight stay and return them to the village the following day.
Even one contribution helps to save someone's eyesight and this work gives satisfaction to Salunke.
The hospital has even attracted the help of big hospitals and corporations that wish to support their continued work. PBMA's HV Desai Eye Hospital, Pune, Seva Foundation, UK, and Corporate funding from the Vision 2020 Fund have helped the JF Ajmera Rotary Netra Rugnalaya improve the technology and facilities they have on offer.
Recently, they have also begun other services at the hospital such as checking vision at an early age and examining children for any vision impairments.
When asked about what keeps him going despite the struggle of so many years, his response is full of sincerity and kindness.
The relief on the faces of poor patients after the surgery provides him with immense satisfaction and he wants to continue working on it,
"Doing such a simple thing that can change a person's life, that is what gives me satisfaction," he concludes.
This story has been received from Giving Circle. It is a platform that connects social change makers, donors, and volunteers. They are working to scale up these initiatives.
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