It’s just recently that I came to realize how cleverly named the guest houses in Aravind are. The postgraduate guest house, where resident doctors hone their skills in the art of Aravind, is named Aspiration. The other guest house, Harmony, is usually where more distinguished professors and high profile guests stay. The international guest house where we are staying in is named Inspiration.
I can tell you that my stay here has been nothing short of inspirational. I can ramble on and on about the amazing feats of hard work and determination that Dr. V and his family underwent to get Aravind to where it is now. I can also talk about how Dr. V and his family worked an insane number of hours to conduct thousands of surgeries all in the name of preventing needless blindness. What I feel is more amazing, however, is how this mentality of compassion and purpose trickles down to everyone who works at Aravind. One doctor from Germany summed this phenomenon up pretty well “It is like a virus”. The environment and atmosphere at Aravind infects you with this desire to do more and to serve more. One great example of going above and beyond to help more people are the free outreach eye camps that Aravind routinely holds.
Two Sundays ago, we went to an outreach camp held in the Sri Ramakrishna Math school. These outreach camps were designed to reach out to people who really could not afford to go all the way to the hospital to have their eyes checked. So Aravind came to them. During my visit, I learned about the whole process of setting up and organizing eye camps. The process starts with the publicity campaign. Aravind and the sponsor organization has to make sure that people know about the upcoming eye camp. So, a week in advance, they spread the news. An effective way of doing so is hiring an auto-rickshaw and fitting it with speakers to blast the news of the upcoming eye camp through the villages and towns. Now these camps are totally free. The patients just have to show up. The patients go through all the same checkups and tests as those who go directly to the hospital. It was pretty neat how quickly the sisters assembled the necessary stations. In just a few minutes, they turned a classroom into a makeshift clinic. Our camp was scheduled to start at 9 am. People started lining up for registration as early as 7:30 am. The patients start off with a preliminary examination usually done by a postgraduate resident and then they go for tension and refraction tests and then they are checked again by the supervising medical officer and finally they go for counselling. If they are deemed to need surgery, the patients are transported to the hospital and brought back after the surgery. Depending on their condition, the patients might have to pay a small sum for the procedure, but the amount is considerably less than the market price.
The camp that we went to was a relatively small one–they only saw 300 patients. This is few compared to the camps in more rural areas where they see more than a thousand patients. Although it was a small camp, I could see in every single one of those 300 faces that they were truly thankful for the service that Aravind was providing. There was one patient who was about 70 years old who asked us what our names were and what we were doing in the eye camp. He was supposed to be taken to the main hospital so that he could have cataract surgery. We introduced ourselves and said that we were volunteer interns at Aravind. At the sound of the word “volunteer”, his face lit up and said “Volunteers? All of you are sent from God” I guess it’s ultimately this service to people in need that inspires so many people to take up Aravind’s mission and help those in need.
I’ll get back to you next week with another inspiring story from Inspiration Guest House. I’ll leave you guys with a bunch of pictures from our trip to Thekaddy (read: ELEPHANTS!) last weekend!