Written by Parami Dhakhwa, Seva Nepal Program Manager
Sundar Rana grew up in the Palpa District in the Rampur municipality of Nepal. Sundar was always a very good student and after finishing grade ten he wanted to further his education by becoming a Health Assistant. Unfortunately there weren’t any colleges in Palpa offering that specific training and Sundar’s family couldn’t afford to send him away for his studies.
In 2009, Sundar volunteered through his local youth club to help register patients at a surgical eye camp run by the Seva-supported Palpa Lions Lacaul Eye Hospital. The Palpa Eye Hospital has organized eye camps for those living in remote areas for many years in collaboration with local groups like the Rampur Jyoti Punja Youth Club where Sundar was a member, to help publicize and manage some of the logistics of the event.
After the surgical camp, a tourist and philanthropist, Mr. Kajumasa Kakimi, wanted to establish a permanent Community Eye Centre (CEC) in Rampur in conjunction with the Palpa Eye Hospital. The CEC, managed by an Ophthalmic Assistant, would ensure year-round access to basic eye care like glasses and medicine, was available to the community.
Ideally, Seva always tries to find and train a local resident to become the Ophthalmic Assistant to manage the Community Eye Centres since they are more likely to have ties to the area increasing the likelihood that they will stay and serve their village and surrounding areas. As a result, the Palpa Eye Hospital asked the Rampur Jyoti Punja Youth Club to help find candidates for the three-year Ophthalmic Assistant (OA) training program for the new CEC. The club’s Chairperson selected five interested locals who had volunteered at the eye camps to take the entrance exam at the Lumbini Eye Institute (LEI). Sundar was one of only two candidates selected who passed the entrance exam.
A delighted Sundar received a Seva scholarship to complete the three-year training program. He successfully completed the training in 2012 and by 2013 he was assigned to the new Rampur Community Eye Centre as its first Ophthalmic Assistant.
Today the Rampur CEC provides services to approximately 10,000 patients and performs 250 cataract surgeries annually through monthly eye camps. But Sundar hasn’t stopped dreaming of improving the eye care available to his community. Now his goal is to expand the CEC into a Secondary Eye Hospital so that locals do not have to wait for a surgical eye camp to restore their sight but can access cataract surgeries and comprehensive eye care services at their convenience.
Finding quality candidates like Sundar for Ophthalmic Assistant training in conjunction with the creation of CECs is a vital part of creating sustainable eye care programs for communities that are run by the community. Thanks to superstars like Sundar and the Rampur CEC, locals don’t have to travel 65km to reach the nearest eye hospital to receive basic eye care.
Thanks to Sundar's commitment and consistent presence at the Rampur Community Eye Centre since its establishment, he has built a lot of trust in the community, one that he is happy to serve and call home.