Eye Care Everywhere: The Orbis Vision Van Hits the Road

Since March 2020, health care providers around the world have prioritized COVID-19 response measures causing many urgent eye surgeries to be delayed. If eye conditions are neglected, however, they can cause irreparable damage, resulting in severe vision loss or blindness.

To tackle this new challenge, Orbis and our partners have doubled down in countries like India—taking our work to the streets, and in some cases, door-to-door.

The Orbis Vision Van Hits the Road

Many people in India were hesitant to visit the hospital for eye care while COVID-19 cases were surging. But allowing those who have critical and urgent eye conditions to forgo treatment simply wasn’t an option. Together with our partners at Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital (AJEH), we reimagined how to deliver eye care to those in dire need despite widespread COVID-19 lockdowns.

Essential to bringing eye care everywhere, especially during global lockdowns, is the Orbis Vision Van. Developed in partnership with AJEH, the Vision Van is a mobile eye care facility designed to bring quality eye care everywhere—even in the midst of a global pandemic.

To combat the fact that many people were now confined to their homes due to lockdowns and school closures, we devised an innovative, new approach—door-to-door screening. A team of three staff members made their way to Narayanpur village to pilot the initiative, making sure to take all necessary safety precautions to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

The Vision Van visits local communities in India, carrying out eye screenings

An eye care professional screens a boy's vision at his school in Bihar, India.

Soon, our team was taking eye care everywhere by coordinating screening activities in the village each day. Children with conditions that required surgery to treat were referred to the hospital, and those with refractive errors such as nearsightedness and farsightedness were referred for a second eye exam at the Vision Van.

Staffed with professional optometrists and medical assistants and outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment, the Vision Van allows us to bring quality eye care anywhere, critical in rural areas or places where services are scarce.

Thanks to Orbis’s generous supporters, this innovative mobile screening and treatment facility has filled a crucial gap in eye care services during this global pandemic. In the first month alone, we conducted nearly 1,000 screenings for children, with 25 of them referred to the hospital for surgery and 49 prescribed a pair of glasses.

Your donation helps take Orbis volunteers to the streets where they’re needed the most.

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Khushi’s Trip to the Vision Van Pays Off

During one of our recent visits to Narayanpur village, we met a young girl named Khushi. Khushi had come for an eye screening from a neighboring village thanks to the insistence of her friend, Rani, who knew Khushi had suffered from watering eyes, blurred vision, and frequent headaches.

Khushi’s mother had been trying home remedies such as head massages with a traditional oil. But these treatments didn’t work, and Khushi’s eyesight worsened. Her mother noticed that Khushi began sleeping for hours each day after school to alleviate her headaches and blurred vision.

Khushi gets an eye exam in the Vision Van.

Khushi’s first screening found that she was suffering from a refractive error, and would need to return for a second screening. The AJEH team called Khushi’s mother to let her know about the second appointment. But on the day of the appointment, Khushi did not turn up.

When a staff member, Abhishek, noticed Khushi’s absence, he visited her at home. This is just one small example of how Orbis staff and volunteers consistently go above and beyond to make sure children receive critical sight-saving care—no matter what barriers stand in the way.

Abhishek learned that Khushi’s grandmother was concerned that wearing glasses would hinder Khushi’s marriage prospects and had refused to allow her to return for the screening. He persuaded Khushi’s grandmother that clear vision is essential to Khushi’s future and will make it possible for her to excel in school without debilitating headaches and blurred vision.

Khushi smiles in her new glasses.

With a new understanding of the benefits of corrected vision, Khushi’s grandmother encouraged her to get her eyes screened, along with a new pair of glasses. Now, Khushi is thriving at school, playing with friends, and spending time with her family without discomfort or fatigue.

“I want to join the police academy after my studies. In my village, no girl is allowed to study past 10th or 12th standard and we are forced to get married. I want to show my relatives and community that girls can also work and earn a living.” —Khushi

Delivering Sight-Saving Care Everywhere

Since 2016, Orbis has worked with AJEH, Eastern India’s largest eye hospital, to provide the skills, resources and knowledge needed to deliver pediatric eye care to 8.8 million children across six districts in India.

Orbis staff work with AJEH to train doctors, strengthen hospital operations, and expand outreach efforts through remote vision centers. In just five years of partnership, we have established 33 children’s eye centers across India’s rural communities, places that would otherwise not have access to life-changing eye care.

Vaishnavi and her father are excited for her bright future.

The partnership with AJEH is just one example of the impact Orbis has had in India since we began working there two decades ago. Millions of children are looking ahead to brighter futures, and we couldn’t be more proud. It’s all thanks to our incredible Orbis India team, our committed local partners like AJEH, and supporters like you.

Your extraordinary generosity and commitment is unparalleled—and we know children like Khushi and their families are just as grateful as we are!

Many children, however, still need your help to receive the urgent eye care they need. Please consider a gift today to ensure Orbis can keep our Vision Van on the road and bring eye care everywhere even in the face of a global pandemic.

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Give a gift to help girls like Khushi see a brighter future.

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