ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 23, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 43

Envisioning a brighter tomorrow

At 4.30am on a chilly morning, 60 sleepy Interactors boarded a bus in Colombo; their destination or rather destinations, Ariyawansa Maha Vidyalaya, Beruwala , Randombe Vidyalaya, Ambalangoda and Uswathun Hasana Vidyalaya, Katugoda Galle.

Splitting into three teams, each group of Interactors were tasked with organising a Vision Camp at their respective school. Once there, they immediately got into action and were to carry out the screening of around 1100 children in just a matter of a few hours. Each team would be conducting a camp for all students in the age group 6-10 years.

The reason behind this was that by 2015 avoidable child blindness will be one of the most severe health issues in Sri Lanka and that it could be treated if detected at an early age. It was with this in mind Vision Camp was inaugurated as a community service venture of the Interact District 3220.

The project which is jointly organized by the Interact District 3220, Amana Takaful Insurance and the Rotary clubs of Colombo Mid-Town, Colombo Millennium City and Kolonnawa, is the first of its kind for Interact but one that has successfully been forged into a multi-phased project that will ensure continuity and sustainable results.

The project consists of four main phases including a training program (completed March 1), the Vision Camp (held on March 3) or the initial screening of all children in targeted schools, and two follow-up phases which would include Doctors' examinations and treatment for the ones affected by visual disabilities.

The inauguration of Vision Camp is also a part of the 45th Anniversary celebrations of the Interact movement. Interact is a Rotary-Sponsored non profit, non political, international service organization of secondary school age youth. There are more than 9000 Interact Clubs in 113 countries with some 206,000 members. The Interact District 3220 is one of the most vibrant of these districts with a membership of 2187 in a total of 84 active clubs nationwide.

The Interact District 3220 is fortunate to have found a likeminded "community service and strategic partner" in Amana Takaful Insurance. They have joined to strategically help the Interactors organize four major community service projects that are to be carried out as part of this 45 year celebration of Interact.

An interesting feature of this project was the training program which was devised to tackle one of the main challenges the Interactors faced in organizing this project; the sheer number of students at the three schools who all had to go through visual testing during the course of a few hours.

As a solution to this problem it was decided to train a large group of Interactors to handle the initial screening process.With the support and guidance of Dr. Nalin Goonesinghe (communal ophthalmologist) a training program was organized at Zahira College, Colombo 10 on March 1. The program, which was conducted by the doctor and his team, enabled the Interactors to learn how to carry out visual acuity testing to check for defects in distance vision and near vision, colour blindness and squints.

The schools in which the Interactors were to carry out the camps had a lot in common as all three of them were affected by the Asian tsunami of 2004 and were recently relocated and rebuilt by Rotary District 3220 as part of the "Schools Re-awakening" project."

The project has helped to increase awareness of this issue not only in the targeted schools but also among the schools of the Interactors and among the Rotary Clubs" observed Rotarian Pubudu De Zoysa. "It is wonderful that it could fulfil a dual-purpose or being a project of action and awareness."

Another very important aspect of the project is its potential for continuity. "The training and experience they received will enable them to duplicate this project many times in the future ensuring a long-term commitment on the part of Interact towards fighting child blindness," says project Chairperson Janeen.

The data recorded at the Vision Camps enabled the organizers to find out which students were affected by visual disabilities. As the next phase of Vision Camp, the identified patients in these schools will be subjected to a secondary examination by medical professionals after which they will be provided with the necessary visual aids and/or treatment.

The organizing committee welcomes your support towards providing visual aids for the affected patients (Interact District 3220 Nation's Trust Bank A/C No. 015212009170) and wishes to thank all those who supported and continue to support them in this endevour.

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