Exclusive story as featured in The Asian Today tabloid newspaper.
On 13 and 16 March 2014, all together over 1000 people were screened for eye surgeries in Nurmahal and Jalandhar, Punjab with the help of donations made from Sikh Union Coventry (UK) in joint effort with Freemason Lodge Devon (Jalandhar).
Amrit and Pummie Matharu alongside members of the Sikh Union at the first Nurmahal Eye Camp
Amrit had the honour along with other committee members to observe the fantastic work carried out by Dr Jacob and his team at Ruby Nelson Memorial Hospital in Jalandhar. Read Amrit’s personal experience of charity at first hand…
It’s amazing to see your efforts to raise money for charity actually be carried through with real results achieved!
In April 2013, with the aid of Northampton Sikh community, we raised over £1000 for the Eye Camp appeal at our very first charity function organised by Pummie Matharu. This money was then donated to the Sikh Union who run an annual Eye Camp in India. The Sikh Union originally started out as a hockey club in the late 60’s as the arrival of Asians from East Africa in Britain began to grow along with their passion for the sport. In 1980 the club affiliated with the Hockey Association and began to play League Hockey. Since then the club has been recognised as an established sports club who run a youth programme for young players and support charitable causes.
One example of these worthy causes is the Eye Camp which started in 2009. The first camp was in Phillaur and has been held every year since in various locations within Punjab. With the joint efforts of the community in Coventry and surrounding communities such as Birmingham and Northampton, the Sikh Union raised the total sum of money to run two Eye Camps this year in Nurmahal and Jalandhar.
It was the first time the Eye Camp was hosted in Nurmahal at Baba Vishkarma Mandir. Over 500 people were present and screened for medical checks. People received eye examinations, blood pressure and sight tests, with a total of 93 people who were discovered with the need for cataract operations and 250 people were given glasses. The following camp was held on Sunday 16March in Jalandhar in the Lodge Devon grounds where over 700 people were taken care of. 160 persons received cataract operations at the Ruby Nelson Memorial Hospital by Dr Jacob and his medical team.
Ruby Nelson Memorial Hospital, Jalandhar, Punjab, India
During both days of the Eye Camp, I witnessed people of all ages suffering with eye problems, right through from young children to the elderly. One case in particular struck my heart as young Sukhpreet who was born blind was sadly informed by doctors that she will never regain vision. At the innocent age of seven-years-old, Sukhreet was prescribed with medicines to maintain her health as her father from Natha, half an hour from Nurmahal tells me that she will eventually end up in a home for the blind.
The level of poverty that these patients live in is unreal. 65-year-old crippled Maya Devi was brought to the camp by her daughter and son-in-law as they ushered her to the nearest seat. Her arched back was being held up by her family as she could hardly stand. Furthermore I spoke Surinder Kaur, who told me she only knows that her age is 60-something from Daboorji, a village between Taran Taaran and Amritsar. I noticed a rag tied to her left arm, when asking her what it’s for she told me the aches and pains in her bones are so painful she can’t even lift her arm. Not only is medical care so limited in some villages, but the level of sanitation is so poor that the doctor explained to me the ‘shaa-shaa’ muffling she hears in her ears is due to lack of hygiene. Surinder Kaur was prescribed drops to clean her ears and medicine for the pain in her bones. Due to the poor sanitation conditions, the majority of the eye patients are kept overnight and thoroughly looked after to allow the wound to heal. They are also provided with the relevant aftercare.
Amrit pictured with Surinder Kaur, 65 years, collecting her prescribed medicines
As well as general health care and cataracts, many other medical problems were discovered including a squint in the eye of young children. A common occurrence seen in children at both camps was a case of crossed eyes. The first case seen of this was in young Jyoti who was only 5-years-old from Nurmahal brought up by her single mother. Another Jyoti, 13, who was seen at the Jalandhar camp, from Sansaarpur also had a squint and received an operation on Tuesday 18March. The operation involved more technical procedures and adjustment of the nerves surrounding the eye which is generally more responsive in younger children. Gurjent, 18, from Bhaania near Khadoor Sahib was a key priority to be operated on as we were keen to prevent any further damage occurring to his eyes.
Jyoti, 13 years, squint patient who received an operation to correct her vision
It was an overwhelming feeling to be a part of the Eye Camp and know that your input has helped benefit someone with the gift of sight. Furthermore these rewarding emotions really hit home when we were given the opportunity to observe Dr Jacob live in surgery. Patients were gowned and taken to receive anaesthetic before having their eyes and the affecting area sterilised with antiseptic. Dr Jacob performed each cataract under an outstanding two minutes per eye. Each incision and movement was carried out with impeccable accuracy.
Doctor Jacob and his medical team performing cataract operations within 2 minutes
Seeing the vital need for eye care in India has literally been an eye opener. We come from a world in the UK where eye care isn’t even questioned. It’s so readily available to us whereas in India, their access is so limited due to poverty. I wear glasses myself, and seeing how people here are begging for glasses compared to where we have the luxury of being able to choose our fancy designer frames is a massive reality check. These are people who wouldn’t even care if they are given a Gucci frame from a Specsavers frame – the value is in the gift of sight itself. The message I would like to spread is that we should appreciate how lucky we are to be healthy and have such facilities available to us. Being part of the Eye Camp has given me a chance to be thankful for this and help someone less fortunate.
For information how to donate and get involved, please visit www. sikhunion.co.uk