Many people across the hills of Nepal are mostly hidden from the world. Despite the scenic beauty Nepal’s hills have to offer, life can be extremely difficult here and essential resources are not readily available.
The addition of a family member suffering from some type of ailment, such as cataract blindness, causes survival itself to become a challenge.
Wana Village lies deep in the confines of the beautiful eastern hills of Nepal. Much like most villages in Nepal, residents of Wana wake up with the sun to go about their day, never wasting a single hour of daylight. From sunrise to sunset, the community can be seen working in the fields, feeding their cattle, fetching water and repairing their homes. Almost every adult who is fit to work in Wana is occupied.
Unlike the rest of her community, Shanti Maya Tamang is unable to work. Sun Maya has been living with cataract blindness for two years. With her blurred vision, she can only see some light through her eyes.
Prior to her blindness, Shanti Maya was an active woman – she would care for her cattle, fetch water, cook meals and care for the household whilst helping in the fields. This meant that her husband was able to pick up jobs around the village and help where was needed.
However, with Shanti Maya’s blindness, hard times have fallen upon the family. The struggle is visually evident – her house is in need of urgent repair, there’s less food on Sun Maya’s plate than her neighbours’ and her clothes seem more worn out than others in the village.
Shakti, her husband is now responsible for all the household responsibilities, and the family has fallen into the trap of extreme poverty.
Shanti Maya tries to help, she has learnt to move with the help of her hand, but only within the periphery of her home. The region is highly perilous, and if she ventures a little further off, she risks falling down and injuring herself, which has happened four times since she became blind.
The family doesn’t have the money to cure Shanti Maya, and the family can’t even imagine making the twelve-hour journey to the city to have her eyes checked.
When Shakti heard of a Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation eye screening camp arriving in their village, his eyes lit up. The camp would only be a three hour journey from their home, meaning Shakti could ensure that his wife was safe.
Shakti brought his wife to the screening camp, and when the day for the surgery arrived, he prepared his wife, packed their bags, locked their home, and made the journey to the camp.
A day earlier, a team from the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology led by Dr Sanduk Ruit had arrived in Basantapur. Overnight, the Shri Basanta Higher Secondary School was converted into an eye clinic, with classrooms serving as spaces for biometry tests, an anesthesiology room, and a temporary operating theatre.
Early morning the next day, patients began to arrive. Altogether, 2218 people were screened from across the hills in preparation for the camp. More than 200 people were found to be living with cataracts and were invited for their free surgery.
Inside the operating room, Dr Sanduk Ruit and Dr Hom Gurung began curing the patients waiting for their surgery.
Shanti Maya was scheduled to undergo surgery on the first day, but in the morning, as she tried to go to the toilet unaccompanied, fell into a ditch and injured her leg. She had to get five stitches, and her surgery was postponed for the next day.
The next morning, after a successful day one of surgeries, Dr Ruit and Dr Gurung got back to the theatre.
Soon Shanti Maya was carried into the operating theatre. Her surgery lasted fifteen minutes.
Dr Ruit skillfully removed her cataracts, as he has done for more than 100,000 patients in the past three decades in his pursuit to end needless blindness across the developing world.
Shanti Maya was patched and sent to the resting area, while the medical team continued through another tiring day of curing hundreds of needless blindness.
The next morning was particularly cold. Patients who had undergone surgery the previous day draped their shawls and winter wear as they waited for their moment of sight. Amongst the one hundred patients was Sun Maya who patiently waited.
Dr Ruit slowly removed the bandages and Shanti Maya opened her eyes – she saw the doctor smiling as she slowly took in the sight that surrounded her.
Shanti Maya had been cured of blindness and could return home to her normal life.
The husband and wife, along with 221 others who had been cured of blindness at the camp slowly made their way home while the doctor and the team began packing up. Their work in Basantapur was done, but it wasn’t time to return home as of yet. Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation teams then began to make their way to Tapethok where a further 70 more patients awaited their opportunity to see again.
The Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation was founded in March 2021 by London philanthropist Tej Kolhi and Kathmandu ‘God of Sight’ Dr Sanduk Ruit. As of November 2022 the NGO had screened 170,022 patients and cured 22,663of blindness at 91 outreach camps in Nepal, Bhutan and Ghana. The Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation is a restricted fund operating under the auspices of Prism The Gift Fund, registered UK charity number 1099682. The Foundation targets the #1 United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of reducing poverty by making large-scale surgical interventions to cure blindness at the grassroots in the developing world. All treatments are provided completely free, with 100% of the funding coming from Tej Kohli and the Kohli family.