In 1976, Dr G Venkataswamy, established an 11 bed eye hospital with 6 free beds in a house in Madurai, and this has grown into the large Aravind Eye Care network of hospitals, clinics, community outreach programs, medical devices factories, and research and training institutes, that has treated more than 56.5 million patients and performed more than 6.8 million sight restoring surgeries, through a frugal, low cost model that is now a Harvard case study.  The Aravind Eye Care System (AECS) opened a tertiary referral eye hospital in Poonamallee in 2017.

There are two RCME connections with AECS – Dr Tiruvengada Krishnan, Rtn PP Uma’s brother, had moved from AECS, Pondicherry to Chennai as Head of Corneal Surgery; And, Prez RMN knew the group professionally for many years. I was already aware about the quantum of charity work that AECS performs not only in Tamil Nadu but also in other states now – to eradicate needless blindness.  When RMN suggested that we could conduct mega eye camps through AECS Chennai, as part of Community Health projects, I jumped.  Uma fixed a meeting with Dr Tiru at their house one Sunday, where Dr Tiru expressed his readiness to identify and conduct mega camps in Tier 3 towns around Chennai, which RCME would sponsor.  Post this, it struck both RMN and me as to why not also look at a GG with AECS, and that is how it all started.  Especially since we knew that whatever we donated would be utilised optimally, looking at the staggering number of patients treated every year across all AECS centres.  Through Dr Tiru, Uma, RMN and I, met Dr Aravind who heads AECS Chennai, and the dialogue started.

RCME will be donating four sets of advanced Biometry equipment to 4 AECS centres – Tirupur, Dindigul, Udumalpet and Tuticorin.  Each hospital covers a population of 1 million with primary focus on Cataracts and refractive errors.  Cataract blindness accounts for 60% of the blindness in these communities and good quality cataract surgery restores 100% vision and enables the individual to lead a productive and dignified life. One of the key investigations to give quality vision in cataract surgery is to measure the Intra Ocular Lens (IOL) power accurately.  Till now, these centres were measuring the IOL power manually.  With this advanced automatic measurement, the post cataract surgery visual acuity will move up from 70- 80% to 100% as per Dr Aravind.  And we thought, why should rural people – poorest of poor farmers and labourers, not benefit from this equipment that is till now only available in tertiary centres?

The RC of Cataraqui-Kingston, whom we have been connected with over quite a few years through Rtn PP S S Rajasekar, and Rtn PP J. Balaraman, is our international partner, and they roped in the RC of Kingston too.  DG Babu Peram, PDG Krish of Madras Club and Rtn Ravi Raman of RC Madras Coramandel were instrumental in forging the partnership for this grant.
The total project cost is US$ 123, 959 or INR 88 Lakhs is shared between the various partners as below

Partners US$
RC Madras East         44,306
Governor’s Fund – Dist 3232 (Chennai/India)         10,000
The Raghavan and Achal Family, USA         10,000
RC Catarqui Kingston, Canada           5,000
RC Kingston, Canada           2,500
Governor’s Fund – Dist 7040 (Canada)           7,500
The Rotary Foundation         47,153
Total Project Cost      1,26,459

Special mention has to be made of The Raghavan and Achal Family and Customer Analytics who contribute liberally to our projects every year. RCME is also very thankful to Guru Krupa Foundation Inc, USA, for the substantial contribution and to several of our own Rotarians who have made this possible.  The project inauguration is on 16th March at 3.30 pm at AECS, Chennai from where we will dedicate the equipment at the four centres through video conferencing.

For more photos of the event please click the below link