Rangabali is a poor region in a low-income country. Until recently, its inhabitants had very little access to even basic eye care. Getting treated for blindness required traveling to the mainland, a long trip that was too expensive for most residents.
Seva videographer Joe Raffanti recalls traveling to the Rangabali Vision Center during the first few days there:
"The day of the vision center inauguration in Rangabali required a long car drive, a car-on-ferry river crossing, further driving, a small (standing room only) ferry crossing, a motorized rickshaw, and finally each staff person rode on the back of a convoy of motorbikes to reach the location of the new vision center."
There was no electricity, but the clinic's staff pulled out all the stops to make everyone at the opening ceremony feel welcome. Community members hiked in from all corners of the island to seek treatment and celebrate the new clinic's opening.
"Hospital staff from a secondary hospital in Barishal brought a large, beautiful flower arrangement to the inauguration, throughout all of those various means of travel, and placed it at the table where all of the honored guests were seated," remembers Joe. "I thought this was a very beautiful metaphor for the great care that must be taken and the barriers that must be overcome to bring something as delicate as eye care services to such a remote community."
After the first clinic inauguration, Joe and the rest of the team traveled by speedboat about an hour or two to reach Mehendiganj, an island with about 70,000 residents. They briefly visited the vision center, then went by motorized rickshaw deeper into the island to witness a refraction screening camp being conducted. The community's optometrist screened community members of all ages and genders, seeing well over 100 people in just three hours.
Events like clinic inaugurations and refraction screening camps are very helpful in promoting proper eye care in remote areas like Rangabali because they introduce the eye professionals and paraprofessionals to the people they serve. Local leaders show community members that the optometrists and staff are trustworthy, competent, and there to help. It also helps to normalize eye care throughout the region and spread the word that people can now seek treatment for their conditions.
On behalf of everyone in the Seva community, we wish the best of luck to our partners in Rangabali. We know they will serve their communities well, and become a vital resource for everyone who lives there.
Above: The new vision center at Rangabali, Bangladesh.
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