A young girl sits at her desk in her classroom, She continues to look into her friend’s book as she tries to take down class notes unable to see the board clearly. She gets punished by the teacher for being a “naughty child” as she holds her book too close to her face when she reads. Unbeknownst to her, her parents or her teachers that she has a visual impairment. She continues on to high school where a school health nurse realizes that this now young woman cannot see clearly. She is handed a pair of spectacles for the first time and suddenly her world is a very different place. No, this little anecdote is not fiction, this is the story of my mother’s struggle during her youth.
According to the organization Our Children’s Vision, approximately 19 million children around the world are visually impaired and 63% of visual problems in the 0-14 age group are fixable with an eye exam and a pair of glasses.
Reasearch studies have also shown a link between poor vision and poverty. A child from an underprivileged community, where eye health is not deemed a necessity, who is unable to see well at school tends to perform poorly in class, this negatively impacts his schooling career which may result in him being unable to pursue a tertiary education or aquire a meaningful job resulting in the child struggling to buid a sustainable future for himself and the vicious cycle of poverty continues.
Eye care and eye health is not necessarily seen as essential. It is our duty as optometrists and eye health professionals to take care of the vulnerable and the less fortunate to help them build a better future.
Enter The Ruya Project, a humble project initiated in 2016, with the intention of providing free eye care services to children from underprivileged communities in the Johannesburg region. It began as a quest by one optometrist to take eye care out to those who are most in need of it..
The project is now assisted and supported by the Islamic Medical Association of South Africa, Brien Holden Vision Institute and many volunteer optometrists. The medical association also provides the project with a network of other health care providers that work hand in hand to make sure all healthcare needs of the children are met.
The Ruya Project takes eye care out to the children, screenings and most testing is done on the premises of where the children live or school ( so that every children is screened and/or tested), spectacles are issued if needed at no cost to the caretakers and referrals to other health care professionals including ophthalmologists can be arranged where necessary.
Another aim of the project is to raise awareness regarding the importance of eye health and eye care.
Zaahira Essay Jogee