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Dublin Bus Driver Aids The Blind

By Mattie Lennon

Irish Charity in India

Three years ago my work colleague Christy Butler paid a social visit to India. So awed, moved and disturbed was he by the poverty, hardship and disease that he decided to do something about it. He says,
"I was in India in 2004 on a private visit in Gujarat State. I was overcome by the hospitality and welcome I received from the people I met and at the same time appalled at the living conditions of many. On my return home I decided to check NGOs and charities to see if I could help in any way. I selected Sightsavers International and for the past 4 years have been organising fundraising events for this charity. Unnecessary blindness combined with abject poverty made life extremely hard for many people and yet it cost so little to make a difference. For 25 euro a person’s eyesight can be restored. A simple cataract operation takes just 20 minutes. That’s all it takes to give someone’s dignity back and help them to become involved once more in village life.”
On the June weekend 2007 he organized a sponsored Bus-Pull. A number of his fellow workers at Dublin Bus pulled a bus from Donnybrook to the City Centre. €6,000 was raised. Isn't it mind boggling to think that such a modest sum could enable an incredible 240 people to once again see the work of the Creator and lead a normal life?

Christy Butler in India November 2007

In November 2007 Christy spent three weeks in India and this is what he has to say about it:

"On a recent visit to India, arrangements were made by Sightsavers International, for me to visit one of their partners' clinics in Gujarat State, near the town of Bharuch. I had only dreamed of such a visit and was eager to see for myself the amazing work being carried out by Sightsavers for the needlessly blind of the developing world.

"As the country's leading charity combating blindness in the developing world, its vision is of a world where no-one is needlessly blind, is a huge task. It works with its partner organisations in the poor, little served communities. Words that spring to mind as I entered SEWA Rural Clinic/Hospital, a 30-minute drive from Bharuch Railway Station in the Jhagadu District of South Gujarat. I had been met by Dilif Patel, my guide for the day, and after a tour of the clinic/hospital, which included maternity, outpatients, eyecare centre and a school, we had lunch in a self-service canteen, where the Director, doctors, nurses, cleaning staff all sit and eat together. Joking and talking about their daily tasks. Would this happen here?

"Following lunch I was shown a DVD of the work of the clinic/hospital. SEWA Rural is more a vocation, a way of life. Its motto, "For the poorest of the poor" is very appropriate. Its catchment area comprises 2 million people from 130 villages, 99.9 % of whom are poor, and covers an area bigger than Leinster. Then out into the bush to see some of the work involving Sightsavers International and the Outreach Programme. Accompanied by Dr Adjid, an ophthalmologist, and Adjuntra Sunvaa and Mahesh, part of the Outreach Team, we first came across a village. One of the huts had a sign over the door for which the basic translation is 'This person is totally blind and has been helped by Sightsavers International.' The woman in her little shop is now a respected member of the village and is able to provide for herself.

"The next call brought us to a field worked by a blind man. Although totally blind, he is well able to harvest his crop and he too is able to provide for his family. Sightsavers International helped to set him up with the purchase of the land.

"In another village we met a totally blind woman who runs an electric flour mill. The village had come to depend on her to run the mill. She was able to provide for her family and to become a 'valuable member of the community' again, with the help of Sightsavers International and SEWA Rural. These are just three examples of the work carried out by the Outreach Programme and Sightsavers International.

"The elderly believe that cataract is a disease that comes from old age and have to be coaxed to come to the clinic/hospital for treatment. As they are found and examined, a 20-seater bus provided by Sightsavers International to help the Outreach Team, ferries them to the clinic for treatment, some from 100 km away. After the operation they are returned to their village. A follow on check up takes place by an ophthalmologist in a Landrover provided by Sightsavers International.

"Due to the vast area covered by the clinic, the bus and Landrover and essential to the smooth running of the Outreach Programme, who have a great rapport with totally blind people. A memorable day for me as I witnessed, at first hand, the magnificent work of the people of SEWA Rural and Sightsavers International. The staff of the clinic, along with the Outreach Team, are a truly fantastic group of devout, professional and caring people working with the poorest of the poor, and as I reflected on the day, I felt that I had walked with saints.

"Early the following morning, I met children as they arrived for school at the clinic. I had a large box of coloured pencils which I presented to the teacher for use in the classroom.

"Into the clinic, where 20 new arrivals from last night were being prepared for surgery. I then attended an operation for the removal of a cataract. A little apprehensive at first, but after scrubbing up my initial fears receded and I became engrossed in the operation. I followed the ophthalmologist's delicate movements on a TV above the operating table, as he removed the cataract using tiny instruments, through the telescope. It looked simple, took less than 20 minutes and cost about '25. Such a small amount to restore someone's eyesight. Twenty more operations followed. Bandages were placed over the affected eye. After counseling, each patient was provided with eye drops and dark glasses to help them over the next day or two.

"Afterwards, I went back out into the bush to visit a primary health care centre supported by Sightsavers International. Located some 50 km from the main clinic, it is manned 24/7 by a young man. He lives on the premises with his wife and son He is a paramedic with huge responsibilities. In the front line so to speak of the Outreach Programme, the facility has a full operating theatre. For serious injuries a doctor would be summoned from the main clinic. Once again, equipment and transport plays a major role in the successful running of this Primary Care Facility. This is more than a job to this young man, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the poorest of the poor. It's a vocation! I was honoured to meet him. He did not wish to have his photo taken or his name mentioned.

"Returning to the clinic I addressed the staff, encouraging them on to greater deeds and had the privilege of presenting awards to three young men. They too would be setting off the following day to man a primary care facility. So much depends on them.

"Dr Adjid, 29 years of age, an ophthalmologist, along with Adjuntra Sunva, Dilip Patel and Mahesh, deserve much praise for their work and commitment. Dr Adjid has given up so much, sacrificed everything, just to be part of the SEWA Rural Community. He, along with the Outreach Team deserve a Nobel Prize for their work.

"Following a long discussion with Dr Uday and having been presented with a DVD of the work carried out by SEWA Rural clinic I proceeded to Bharuch town, where I boarded a bus for a five-and-a-half hour journey to my base in Ahmedabad. I had an amazing time, a life-changing time, at the clinic. It gave me a greater perspective of the work of Sightsavers International and its partner organisations in Jhagadia District of Bharuch and also on life itself. For the five-and-a-half hour journey I was contemplating on my fundraising plans for the coming year, my major objective being the Dublin Bus Pull, to make it bigger than ever and to make the people of Dublin more aware of the fantastic work being carried out by Sightsavers International in the developing world.

"Unnecessary blindness is hard but combined with poverty and harsh living conditions, it makes life unbearable. Having witnessed at first hand the work of Sightsavers International and SEWA Rural clinic in just one small corner of the developing world I shall endeavour to give more time, energy and commitment to my fundraising activities in the future.

"What we do today echoes in eternity."

Christy Butler

What have Sightsavers done to date?
    In 2006 millions of people have been seen and treated. 4,670,008 people they have seen by their local partners, and 3,102,769 people treated as a result.
    Eye operations: They supported 277,393 eye operations.
    River blindness protection: 14,208,655 people they protected against river blindness in Africa.
    Training of workers: They supported the training of 65,853 workers, ranging from community volunteers to specialist teachers, nurses and cataract surgeons.
    Social inclusion: Their partners helped 9,514 people who are blind to lead independent lives by training in mobility, orientation and life skills.
    Education: They supported 4,822 children who are visually impaired to attend.

You can contact Sightsavers at:
98, Patrick Street,
Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin
or go to:

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