Let there be light!

Restoring Vision

Imagine what it is like to not have the power of eyesight — not being able to see your loved ones’ faces, sunsets and colourful flowers, not being able to read or finding your way through the city’s dangerous streets… Life is certainly not a bed of roses if you are blind. What’s worse than being blind is knowing that your condition is curable, but being helpless to do anything about it due to lack of money.

Here’s where ‘Caring Capitalism’ comes in. Mission for Vision – an organisation that partners with eye care hospitals across India to fund eye surgeries for the rural poor – is based on this principle. As a trustee of the organisation explains – “While capitalism celebrates profits only to enrich shareholders, Caring Capitalism is the pursuit of profit to enrich society as a whole.”

Mission for Vision comes to the rescue of lakhs of poor individuals from rural India. “Currently, 1.8 lakh patients undergo eye treatment every year,” says Mamta Singh, Program Head at Mission for Vision.

These include the likes of 50-year-old Iruthayaraj, who lost his left hand in an accident. Iruthayaraj ran a small women’s tailoring shop on the porch of his house in Virudhunagar district in Tamil Nadu. However, cataract in his eyes made it difficult for him to continue with his profession. In Gardhani village in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, eight-year-old Prashant Madake suffered from reduced vision since birth. Corrective surgery to improve his eyesight was possible, but the family lacked the funds to go in for such an operation. Both, along with many others, have benefited with the help of Mission for Vision.

However, to deal with lakhs of patients like these, Mission for Vision needed an efficient system. “The organisation needed software to put all the data together, generate reports and review the performance. It was especially important because Mission for Vison is the only organisation of its kind in the world that does post-surgery check-ins for six months,” says Singh.

Mission for Vision approached Mastek with its requirements in 2013. “MFV wanted to generate an impact statement – an application to measure transformation in the lives of the poor people before and after the eye surgery based on socio-economic parameters,” says Anil Dsa, Project Manager. ““Mastek believes that NGOs will be best served by ready software with some customization rather than developing custom software (unless a readymade solution is not available for the problem ). This helps cut down time and costs during development and maintenance, which is critical for the not-for-profit sector. However, we built a small application for Mission for Vision as per their requirements.”

Before the software came along, collecting and collating data was a tedious task. “Surveyors earlier filled forms, the data was entered into Excel sheets and then MIS reports were generated. However, after the application was developed and loaded into the laptops of surveyors, form duplication and Excel sheets could be eliminated,” explains Dsa.

Before the software was adopted, Mission for Vision would conduct camps/ events and register patients on paper forms, which were sent to the main offices, where the data was fed into an Excel sheet. There were no baseline details and no socio-economic conditions were captured; only medical details were taken. And MIS reports were available only for the post-surgery period. “Now, since all details are collected pre- and post-surgery, it becomes easier to list patients that are eligible for post-surgery surveys. Also, a complete comparison analysis is done, finding out how the eye treatment impacted the life of the patient,” says Dsa. And when you have a good impact statement, it helps attract more funds to this noble cause. “The software not only cuts the effort, but the time as well. A month’s work can now be done in a day and MIS reports can be generated immediately,” he adds.

However, challenges like lack of laptops, electricity and Internet in rural areas have limited the use of the software as of now. “I won’t deny that it is a disappointment because when the resource hired for developing the software quit after four months, there was a decision to take whether to drop the project or continue. I then went back to software developing after years of management to ensure the software is developed to a useable stage. I was emotionally involved because I realised the organisation was doing a great job and that this software would definitely help them,” says Dsa.

Singh too admits that since not many laptops are available currently, the software cannot be used by every surveyor. Nevertheless, MFV and Mastek are planning to discuss how to take things ahead. “Mastek understood our requirements and built us software that really helps,” she adds. “The transition phase is always difficult; the software is still in the testing phase, but another year and we will be able to use it to the fullest,” says Singh.

With this kind of support, Mission for Vision now aims to have presence in every state of India by 2020 and conduct 5 lakh surgeries per annum. Here’s hoping that like Iruthayaraj and Prashant, many more lives are transformed!