This year has been particularly difficult, due to severe flooding , which affected the ashram and large areas on the banks of the Ganges river. Many thousands were left homeless. There was considerable damage to the area in front of the actual hospital building, but due to many concrete pillars sunk in to the ground at a depth of 20 feet or so, the building remained intact. We had to construct a strong wall, so that any further natural catastrophes occur, we will be totally safe.
This year I spent about 3 months in Varanasi, with a short return to the U.K, due to the passing of my sister in law in Ireland. The work has progressed at the normal slow Indian rate, but at the time of writing, March 2014, we are nearly there. Paving slabs and perhaps a small garden, a new gate and an inverter should get the building up to a descent level.
The plan is to employ a full time optometrist, who will continue to supply glasses, free of charge to the poor. An optometrist in India only costs about £1000 per yea , each pair of glasses costing only £1.
The next step would be to commence only cataract operations on the clinical floor, perhaps once a fortnight to start with. We are going to team up with another eye hospital in Varanasi, who are willing to help in many respects and perhaps even supply us with some operating theatre equipment, however to set up a theatre would cost about £15,000, which I do not have at the moment, so that will have to be put on hold for the time being.
We would charge about £30 for each cataract operation to those who are able to pay, which by comparison to other hospitals is very inexpensive. This money would be used to maintain and sustain those not able to pay, so the hospital would be self-sustaining.
We have come quite far over the last two years, creating a building of some beauty as well as a functionality of some significance.
One can only hope and pray that many people can have their sight restored in the best possible way. Many thanks to all those who have taken an interest in the project, in particular Justin and Teifion Salsbury, without whose help we would not have come anywhere near this far. And of course, thanks to my colleague and project manager in India, Girish Sharma and also the support from my family in this difficult year.