Seva helps cure blindness and creates jobs in Cambodia
Seva is the lead partner in launching BOCC, which opened its doors in September 2007 in one of Cambodia’s neediest northwest provinces. Today, four trained Cambodian staff travel to remote communities throughout the area to conduct eye exams, and already more than 2,300 villagers have been brought to BOCC for surgery.
This is an extraordinary achievement in a nation where over 90,000 people have cataract blindness, yet until recently there have been no schools to train ophthalmologists and there are now fewer than ten ophthalmologists in the entire country.
Eyesight Equals Self-Sufficiency
For many BOCC patients, regaining their eyesight means regaining their ability to work and be self-sufficient. “I help support my family by stripping coconuts so they can be sold at market,” says Mrs. Moung Muth, 73, from Prey Pdao village, about 30 km from Battambang. Her vision had been clouded by cataract for almost a decade, making it increasingly difficult for her to work. Then a BOCC field worker visited, examined her eyes, and brought her to BOCC for cataract surgery. “I paid 20,000 Reils [about $5] for the surgery, which I had saved from stripping coconuts over a long time,” she says. “Now that I can see, I can work again — easily and safely.”
New Center Brings New Jobs
BOCC is also creating much needed economic development for the community. “BOCC now employs 16 Cambodians on its staff, including nurses, optometrists, counselors, field workers and medical assistants," explains Dr. Chundak Tenzing, Director of Seva's Sight Program. "The only non-Cambodian is Dr. Bal Kumar Khatri, a surgeon and former director of the Lumbini Eye Institute in Nepal — though he has more than a decade of experience working in Cambodia. And over 40% of the BOCC staff are women, which is so important because women have been excluded from these opportunities in the past."
These new jobs are typical of Seva's approach to building sustainable eye care programs. "Rather than sending Seva's own staff to run the programs," says Dr. Tenzing, "we train local people to provide care to their own communities."
Sustainable Business Model
BOCC uses a fee structure that Seva helped perfect with Aravind Eye Care System, Seva's principal partner in India. "We're showing BOCC how to establish a program of high volume, high quality care,” Dr. Tenzing says. “About 80% of the patients pay a basic amount for care, and 10% pay a higher level. Together, that subsidizes the poorest 10% of patients, who receive care free of charge. This approach will ensure that BOCC can be financially self-sufficient while still caring for those in greatest need."