On the Path to Clearer Vision

Imagine that your sight is slowly declining and you have no idea why. That’s what happened to Bibhuti Chakraborthy, a 55 year-old farmer and father of three children who lives in rural Bangladesh.

Bibhuti attending his most recent check-up. Photo: c. HKI

Three years ago, Bibhuti noticed that he could no longer see his fields as clearly as he once did. Tasks that were once simple became more difficult because he had trouble seeing. He didn’t understand what was happening to his vision or why he could no longer see properly and everyday life became a struggle. Desperate for answers,  he visited the nearest hospital where he was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and Diabetic Retinopathy, a condition where damage to the blood vessels in your eye leads to visual impairment.  Bibhuti was not even aware that he had diabetes or that diabetes could be connected to the vision problems he was experiencing.  Unfortunately, Bibhuti’s story is not uncommon: people suffering from Diabetic Retinopathy are often unaware that their vision problems are connected to diabetes.

Diabetic Retinopathy (DR) affects 4.2 million people around the world, most of whom live in developing countries.  With cases of diabetes on the rise worldwide, it is more important than ever that diabetics understand the risks and complications of the disease. HKI trains health workers to screen people for DR to promote early detection. The program also provides treatment and counseling that helps diabetes patients understand the risk factors associated with diabetes. Piloted three years ago in Bangladesh and Indonesia, the program has already provided screenings to 25,000 diabetics and preserved the sight of 4,000 of them.

Bibuthi is seeing much better these days. He completed a sightsaving laser treatment in his right eye and is about to undergo another surgery for his left eye.  Thanks to HKI’s counseling programs and regular visits to his doctor, he now understands the implications of his diabetes.  He tries to walk at least 20 minutes each morning, takes his tea without sugar and tries to balance his diet with more vegetables, cutting out the sugars and fats that worsen his condition. He also receives regular phone calls to remind him of his check-ups and treatments, and Bibuthi is glad to know that HKI is with him each step of the way as he continues on the path toward clearer vision.

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Categories Asia-Pacific, Preventing Blindness

Global Handwashing Day

This blog was written by Hannah Taylor, a field intern at HKI Bangladesh.

A health Worker teaches a young child and his mother proper handwashing methods. Photo: c. HKI

Around the world, from large urban centers to tiny rural villages, from the United States to Bangladesh, in schools, homes, community and health centers, people are celebrating Global Handwashing Day! Regularly washing hands with soap before or after critical daily activities which spread germs, like after using the toilet or before eating, can lead to reduced instances of many illnesses such as Neglected Tropical Diseases, like trachoma, or diarrhea and several respiratory diseases.

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Categories Asia-Pacific

Georgia Students Serve, Lead and Share to Prevent Blindness!

This blog was written by Angela Blankenship, who teaches third grade at St. Luke School.

St. Luke School, Columbus, GA. Photo c: HKI/Angela Blankenship

St. Luke School is a faith-based school in Columbus, Georgia, of about 560 students from kindergarten through eighth grade.  Serve, Lead, Share in mind, body, and spirit was the school’s theme for the 2012-2013 school year.

Through this Serve, Lead, Share focus, each grade level chose an organization to support for one month. It was hard for each grade level to decide which organization they would like to support.  However, it was exciting for the third grade class because St. Luke’s third graders participate in an interdisciplinary unit of study of Helen Keller.

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Categories Helen Keller, United States

Clear Vision for New York’s Future

This post was written by ChildSight® New York Program Manager Tonya Daniels.

Today is World Sight Day, a global day of awareness about the importance of eye health. It also serves as a great reminder to have your child’s eyes checked.

One NYC student on the path to clear vision at a recent ChildSight® screening. Photo: c. HKI

Did you know that up to 80% of what your child learns is through their eyes? One of the most common – and preventable – obstacles to academic success is unclear vision. The fact is if your child can’t see the writing on the board or the text in a book, it can mean the difference between doing well in school this year and failing.

It’s a familiar scene: a student suddenly starts to fall behind or lose interest in subjects they once loved. They miss homework assignments, seem distracted and act up in class. Maybe they no longer want to play sports after school with their friends. Parents and teachers are left mystified. more…

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Categories United States

Back to School with Clear Vision!

Pencils are sharpened, notebooks are at the ready and the excitement of a new school year, full of new beginnings and possibilities, is in the air for students all around the United States.  But many are starting the school year off at a disadvantage.  Some have to squint to read the blackboard or borrow notes from their friends; others lose their place while reading their text books. more…

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Categories Preventing Blindness, United States

Making it stick

This blog was written by Hannah Taylor, a field intern with HKI Bangladesh.

Gradute school has made me quite aware of when and how the learning process works best. After hours of long lectures in large auditoriums, I relished those one-on-one meetings with a professor to solidify the content and ask all my questions. On a recent visit to HKI’s Project Laser Beam (PLB), I had the opportunity to see the effect that this unique kind of personalized education can have on family health and nutrition.

Jarna and her daughter at their home

Jarna lives in a small home in Kaligonj, Bangladesh with her husband, her parents-in-law, and her two-year-old daughter. Her husband’s income as a local rickshaw-van puller, approximately 150 taka (~$1.90) a day, supports their entire family. Through Mondelēz International Foundation-sponsored Project Laser Beam, Jarna is attending educational sessions to learn about ways she can provide the best nutrition for her family and contribute fresh produce from her garden, part of the Homestead Food Production program, for the household.

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Categories Asia-Pacific

Success Stories from Cambodia

This blog was written by HKI-Cambodia field intern Caitlin Gruer.

Photo c. HKI

A few weeks ago I blogged about my experience going into the field with the HKI Cambodia team to interview participants in our Micronutrient Powder program (read about it here).  During the trip I was able to speak to many inspiring women involved in the program, and I thought that I would take this opportunity to share some of their stories.

The goal of the micronutrient power (MNP) program is to reduce micronutrient deficiencies and malnutrition prevalence, and to help keep children healthy.  It is an in-home fortification program in which mothers receive sachets of MNP powder to add to their babies’ food to ensure that it is adequately nutritious.  The mothers are also educated about complementary feeding, and infant and young child feeding practices by village health volunteers.

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Categories Asia-Pacific

Packing Up At The Wrong Time

This blog was written by Michael Wilson, field intern at HKI Vietnam. 

As our time in Vietnam winds down, things at HKI Vietnam are doing just the opposite. Since we arrived in Hanoi close to eight weeks ago, things have progressively become busier around the office. The dog days are over here in Hanoi. Since arriving, the staff in Hanoi’s small but productive office have been busy preparing for the implementation of ChildSight® in three provinces starting in August- Ha Dong, Quoc Oai, and Nam Dinh.

HKI Vietnam has also recently received confirmation to begin the Homestead Food Production program here in Vietnam. This is an exciting new venture for Vietnam to now expand their reach and partnerships, starting in the Son La province in the coming months.

It is hard to believe that we will be packing up and leaving the beautiful Hanoi in just a few short days. We have learned so much from the staff at HKI and have enjoyed working on various projects, particularly the materials and surveys used to educate and measure knowledge and Quality of Life of the children enrolled in Vietnam’s ChildSight® program.

We are sad to leave, especially at what seems like such an exciting time the office is in- preparing for the launch of four programs and the hiring of three additional support staff.

Much thanks to all who made this opportunity possible for Casey and I. Of course, it will be hard to leave the Bánh cuốn, Khúc mía, motorbike rides, and the stifling humidity (kidding), but what will be hardest to leave will be the staff at HKI who have taken us in like family and taught and shown us many valuable, unforgettable lessons about their culture and their hearts towards the blind, hungry, and less fortunate people of Vietnam.

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Categories Asia-Pacific, Preventing Blindness

Dreaming of cows in rural Bangladesh

This blog was written by Hannah Taylor, a field intern with HKI Bangladesh.

Women in Bangladesh benefit from HKI's Project Laser Beam. Photo: c. HKI

I recently joined the HKI Bangladesh team as a Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition intern as part of my Masters of Public Health program with Columbia University. Like any start to a new adventure in life, I set goals for what I hoped to accomplish for myself and for the team, and I made plans for my future. During a visit to HKI’s Project Laser Beam in the Southern regions of Bangladesh, I found a few women who were also making big plans for their future and looking to learn from HKI as well.

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Categories Asia-Pacific, Reducing Malnutrition

National Sovereignty, Nutrition and Neglected Tropical Diseases

Launch of NMDs 1999. Children singing that vitamin A “saves sight and lives”. June 30, 1999. Photo: c. HKI

Flying into Niamey, the capital of Niger, always feels like coming home. Since starting development work in 1981 it is the country that has the most marked me and where I have traveled the most extensively. We are accompanying a columnist from The New York Times, Nick Kristof, and his annual “Win-A-Trip” participant, Erin Luhmann and their videographer, Ben Solomon during their West Africa visit. They will go on from Niamey to a leprosy hospital further to the East, and then on to Chad. The flight in is at the perfect time of day in the perfect season. The beginning of the rainy season has washed off the dust and the foliage is a brilliant green, contrasting with the red earth. The end-of-day light gives the perfect glow to the landscape. Immigration at the airport is more nervous than usual about having journalists visit – perhaps because of the heightened security concerns. However with a little explanation on several fronts the team is out of the airport and off to their first visit in Niamey. more…

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Categories Africa, Preventing Blindness