Team of Volunteers Travels to India for Health Camps

For the fourth year in a row, Vision Express, a Western North Carolina-based non-profit, and Rug & Home are teaming up to host health camps in rural villages near Varanasi, India.

A team of eight volunteers from the Carolinas will leave in February to serve in various capacities in the health camps. They will collaborate with twenty-five Indian medical professionals and 30 volunteers from the surrounding region in India.

With over 3,500 patients seen over the course of three days, 70-90 percent of whom have never before seen a doctor, the health camp will include health practitioners from a multitude of specialties, ranging from general practitioners to gynecologists, cardiac specialists, dentists, ophthalmologists, and pediatricians. The volunteers taking this journey from the Carolinas will be assisting, observing, and collecting data on the patients that are seen by the physicians. The ultimate goal is the cross-culture exchange of knowledge and ideas for the betterment of health care for the rural population in India, especially for women and children.

The focus of the camps will be on women’s health issues, with a special focus on screening for cataracts. Treatable cataract blindness is one of the most prevalent problems faced by women, young and old, in the underprivileged population in this region of India. Vision Express was established with the express purpose of eradicating cataract blindness for this group of females. Recently, the available operations have also expanded to include abdominal surgeries such as kidney stones, gall bladders, hysterectomies, and other surgeries designed to forestall malignancy and cancer.

Personal hygiene is non-existent in the rural communities of India. With deadly viruses surfacing globally, the health camps will also feature demonstrations from personal hygiene experts. Additionally, yoga, born in India, is sadly not widely practiced in the villages there. Yoga and breathing exercise will be taught to rural residents throughout the camps to help improve overall health.

Rakesh Agarwal, CEO of Rug & Home and Founder of Vision Express, said, “These health camps serve as a small step in the cross-cultural exchange between the two biggest democracies in the world. My hope is to create long-lasting relationships and a bridge amongst the U.S. team members and Indian physicians and volunteers.”

As a part of the cultural experience, the U.S. team tours the Taj Mahal in Agra, the forts and palaces in Jaipur, and the major sites in New Delhi. Other than air travel, all expenses are paid by Rug & Home.

Vision Express is a 501c3 charity based in Western North Carolina. It was founded in 2012 by Rakesh Agarwal, CEO of Rug & Home, to provide sight-restoring cataract operations to underprivileged Indian women suffering from cataract blindness. Vision Express not only restores eyesight but also, by extension, restores self-esteem and removes isolation for these women. The individuals who are given the opportunity to have this corrective eye surgery are once again able to play active roles in their families and communities. For more information, visit www.visionexpress.net.

About Shelby Harrell
Shelby Harrell is the news editor of the Biltmore Beacon, editor of The Guide arts and entertainment publication and is a staff writer for Mountaineer Publishing. Originally from Asheville, she has worked in journalism for more than six years and currently lives in Clyde, NC.