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News Guardian, Thursday, April 14, 2011

Small change donated to charity in North Tyneside can make a massive difference to people in need The Rotary Club of Monkseaton Centenary supports charity projects at home and abroad. TEGAN CHAPMAN went to Nepal with the club to see how money raised in North Tyneside is being spent there. THE foothills of the Himalayas are home to millions of people. Despite living several thousands of feet up, in altitudes that pose a threat to the human body, those who call this part of the world home regard the dangers they face as part of everyday life. To them, there is nothing out of the ordinary about how they live. The Himalayas are not mountains to the people who live here, they are merely hills. But while the people here may be able to run up and down these hills carrying up to 35kg on their backs without breaking sweat, there is one threat they can do little to avoid. At high altitudes, dangerous ultraviolet rays from the sun penetrate the thin air, where the sun is so intense it burns people’s eyes. Cataracts are a common problem here, worsened by the fact that villagers are often isolated, making access to medical treatment difficult. However, an eye camp organised by the charity Javea in Nepal, with the support of the Rotary Club of Monkseaton

Sight can be difference between life and death on mountainside Centenary, offered help to hundreds of people in these villages. For 83-year-old Humar Bahadar Shahi, every step he took on the uneven ground high up in the village of Thokarpa could have been his last. He had cataracts in both eyes and had been blind for 47 years. One wrong step could see him fall off the side of a mountain. Even jobs like collecting water took several times longer than would have been the case for someone who could see, but Humar must feed his goats, and to do that, he has to climb a tree

to cut down branches. His grandchildren had to tell him which direction the branches are in because he could not see them. There are others like Humar who have had to be carried to the eye camp to get the help they need. Some have been transported for hours from faraway villages, and one even arrives on a stretcher. Even for the most fit and able-bodied person, walking around in the hills is hard going. While we are there, volunteer Sister Mary Rathbone slips on the rocky floor and tears the ligaments in her ankle.

Walking these treacherous roads without your sight is beyond dangerous. Rotary club secretary Vera Russell, and co-founder of the charity Javea in Nepal, said: “We knew that there were a lot of people with cataracts and that they are a big problem in the hills, so we said ‘let’s do something about it’. “When they develop, they can eventually lead to blindness, and people in this condition are not able to work, so they become a burden to the rest of the family. “We know that it is a problem which is fairly easily remedied if identified, so last year we set

about organising the eye camp, getting the ophthalmologists to give up their time to assess the people, to give them the surgery they need free of charge. “I had nightmares thinking no one would turn up, and when we got hundreds, I was delighted.” A total of 450 people arrived to get their eyes checked at the day-long camp – 52 of them are recommended for surgery. The cost of surgery is about £90 each, but these people could never afford it if they had to pay. “We knew not all who had been offered the surgery would take it up, as surgery is a frightening thing for them,” said Javea

in Nepal co-founder Jack Timalsina. “It is the unknown. They think if they go to sleep, they may not wake up, so for 27 to want the surgery is just incredible.” The Rotary Club of Monkseaton Centenary paid for a bus to transport those needing the surgery and their carers to hospital in Kathmandu. Humar was one of those 27 aboard the bus. While the success rate for this relatively simple operation is high, there was every chance that Humar’s eyes would be too far gone to be saved. Just 24 hours after surgery,

News Guardian, Thursday, April 14, 2011

thousands of miles away Some of the hundreds of villagers queueing up for the eye camp. Humar Bahadar Shahi having his eyes checked, below, and tested, right.

the 27 patients faced an anxious wait to have their bandages removed, hoping their sight would be restored. For Humar, it was the miracle he had been hoping for. For the first time in nearly half a century, he can see. Thanks to the work of the charity, the Rotary club and the generosity of the opthalmologists, Humar can see his grandchildren for the very first time, and will be able to go about his days without needlessly risking his life. The club paid for transport for the ophthalmologists and the villagers’ food and travel costs.

n If you have been touched by the stories you have read and would like to make a donation, here’s how you can do it. Donations can be made via the internet at monkseatoncentenerary/Donate or by post to: Tracey Hartley, The Rotary Club of Monkseaton Centenary, 75 Marine Avenue, Whitley Bay, NE26 1NB, or in person at the Monkseaton Arms in Front Street, Monkseaton. Cheques should be made payable to the Rotary Club of Monkseaton Centenary Trust Fund. Visit uk for more information about the charity.

Artificial eye will make happier future possible for Babita LITTLE Babita Bicak was facing a bleak future. Born completely blind in one eye, the seven-yearold was an outcast from society. Because of her appearance, she was teased at school and had a future of prejudice in front of her. When she came to the eye camp, her story touched volunteer Mary Rathbone, from Whitley Bay Health Centre. “She was a beautifullooking girl except the fact that one eye was not of normal appearance,” she said. “It seemed very unfair that she would not be given the chance to have a husband and a family, and a normal life. “I know what it is like to be teased at school, and it makes me very cross that people can be like

that towards someone with disabilities. “I have two children with special needs, and I have seen the prejudice first hand, so I wanted to do what I could to help Babita.” Since returning from Nepal, Mary has taken part in a 24-hour sponsored archery shoot in County Durham to raise money for a false eye for Babita and also to help others like her. “Getting a false eye will open up a new world of possibilities for her future life,” she said. “It will allow her to marry and to have a family – to get through the rest of her life without being teased and tormented.”

Babita Bicak with her mum.


Nepal 3  

Final story in a series about my trip to Nepal.