thousand cataract operations project initiated by John Keells Group
has saved the eyes of many needy patients
Mission for vision
By Hiranthi Fernando
Annette Bridget at Gurugalla, in Avissawella, with
her eye still covered is recovering from cataract surgery. Bridget,
38, supports two school-going daughters, aged 15 and 10. Her husband
left them seven years ago and she makes do with the Rs.120 she earns
at a garment factory in Avissawella.
do the cleaning, canteen work and a lot of other work," Bridget
said. She starts work at 7.30 a.m. and finishes at 6 p.m, cooking
lunch for the family before she leaves in the morning. It is a hard
life for Bridget, who also suffers from asthma. But she was fortunate
to benefit from the thousand cataract operations programme undertaken
by the John Keells Group as their Corporate and Social Responsibility
base hospitals of nine provinces where surgical infrastructure is
available have been identified and the project has begun in Avissawella
and Matale, with the most deserving candidates, like Bridget selected
by the doctors at the hospitals.
the Avissawella Base Hospital, where the project was launched, thirty
operations have been done since June 29, said Consultant Eye Surgeon
Dr. Nalin Rajakaruna. Another batch of ten patients are awaiting
surgery. Dr. Rajakaruna explained that when a patient has been diagnosed
with cataract, the lenses have to be purchased by the patient.There
are many patients who cannot afford this and the most needy are
selected for this project.
first signs of my problem were when I felt like a net over my eye,"
Bridget recalled. "I found it difficult to read. Then my eyes
started hurting.When I first went to see a doctor, I was told there
was nothing wrong. However, I had headaches and I went to see Dr.
Rajakaruna at the Avissawella hospital who told me I had a cataract."
the doctor said it was essential to have a cataract operation, Bridget
did not know what to do. She tried to get a letter from the doctor
so that she could appeal for donations to buy the lens. However,
when he then offered her the lens through the Keells project, she
was relieved and thankful.
daily paid, Bridget finds it exceedingly difficult to manage during
her period of recovery having to also find money for her asthma
medication, which she no longer receives free from the clinic.
says she has also finished the eyedrops she was given and has no
money to purchase another bottle until she starts earning again.
"I went to see the doctor and he advised me not to go to work
for at least a month. There is a small shop near my workplace. I
get foodstuffs on credit to be paid when I go back to work."
says she has to go back to her work since she needs to earn a living.
She has appealed to the Social Services Department for a sewing
machine, so that she could sew at home. "I can sew baby suits
and so on and sell to traders and the girls at the garment factory."
65, at Yatiyantota has also benefited from the cataract project.
Living with her two daughters, she looks after five small grandchildren.
Her husband left her twenty years ago. Her three daughters too have
been abandoned by their husbands. Valliamma receives provisions
to the value of Rs. 250 from Samurdhi and Rs. 100 from Social Services.
They often have no money to buy milk for her youngest grandchild,
just 15 months old.
who has suffered from cataract for about one year could not afford
the lens and is happy to have received it free. She says her second
eye also needs to be done at sometime. "I can now see well
at close range but still have problems with distant vision,"
Piyatissa, a casual labourer of 45 years, was operated in June and
has now gone back to work. Sopi Nona, who is 85 years is also happy
after her surgery, although she said her other eye also needs to
be done. "The doctor told me to bathe daily, eat well and come
back if I have any problem," Sopi Nona said.
are a few of the beneficiaries of the '1000 Cataract Operations'
project. Yukthi Gunaskera, Head of Corporate Communications at John
Keells, said they are now looking at aftercare of the patients,
including the provision of spectacles to those who need them.
cataract operations project is part of a larger programme of Corporate
and Social Responsibility (CSR), said Lalith Ramanayake, Managing
Director of John Keells. Although, the group has been involved in
various projects over the years, it had not been a coordinated effort,
October 2003, a ten-member CSR working committee had been formed,
with members from various companies within the group. "We discussed
various initiatives as to how we could make a difference,"
Mr. Ramanayake said. For the year 2004/2005, three key areas were
identified. "Under these areas of education, health and environment,
we focused on what we could do to make the difference," he
education, projects include developing basic infrastructure such
as water and sanitation for 34 schools for the current financial
year. Schools in close proximity to their business units have been
selected. Three schools in Slave Island have been helped. Providing
English scholarships at Gateway Institute and propagating IT literacy
by setting up kiosks in the universities are also within this programme.
the area of environment, we start by looking at our own backyard,"
Mr. Ramanayake said. They plan to work with the community and work
towards improving the environment in their own neighbourhood. Two
employees have been assigned to maintain the Slave Island railway
station. The ultimate aim of the CSR project is to live up to the
motto they adopted,' Touching the lives of people' in order to make