L V P E I Experience - L V Prasad Eye Institute

Helping Hands

One day in 1998 Praveen K Gottipalli, an NRI from San Fransisco, California, was driving past L V Prasad Eye Institute. He had heard a lot about the Institute's work and was searching for a deserving organization to help and support. Impulsively he decided to walk in, without any references or contacts.

Mr Gottipalli asked how he could help, and was immediately taken to meet Dr G N Rao. Dr Rao showed him around the Institute and asked him to choose an area of Eye care that he felt strongly about and wished to support.

Mr Gottipalli's wife Sunita had worked as a teacher, and the couple were particularly interested in helping children with eye problems. They wanted to make a commitment to provide underprivileged children with sight-enhancing devices to enable them to pursue an education and realize their full potential.

Sunita and Praveen Gottipalli became long-term supporters of L V Prasad Eye Institute, donating $5000 annually to provide low vision devices (LVDs) to non-paying patients. These devices include pocket magnifiers for reading maps etc., or telescopes for distance vision reading as from a blackboard. "We were the first walk-in donors," laughs Mr Gottipalli.

The Gottipallis have strong roots in their home state of Andhra Pradesh and come from the US each year to spend time here. Last month they pledged their support towards setting up and developing an IT resource centre at the Meera & L B Deshpande Centre for Sight Enhancement. The computers will have screen reading software technology to enable the visually impaired to access information on educational and employment opportunities. The support to the IT centre will be in addition to their annual $ 5000 commitment.

On a recent visit to the Institute the Gottipallis met some of the young patients of the Vision Rehabilitation Centres and saw how LVDs can make a big difference, especially when given to children early in life. Salma is 14 and studying in the eighth class. Her father is an autodriver and a non-paying patient. She has been coming to the Centre since she was 22 months old and is at home at the Institute. When she came as a baby in 1989 she had cataract in one eye, now she has glaucoma.

Salma has been using a telescope to help her with her studies and can read English quite fluently. A good student, she scored 75 percent in the 7th class public examinations. She smiles and talks readily, saying she wants to become a teacher. When Sunita Gottipalli told her how happy she was to meet her, Salma responded shyly but confidently, "I am also very happy to meet you!"

In sharp contrast to Salma is 13-year-old Bhavani, who has high myopia. She has come to the Institute very recently and has grown up without any specialized care or low vision devices. Seeing how unsure of herself Bhavani is, especially when compared to Salma, the Gottipallis were again amazed by the difference lack of opportunities and sight-enhancing devices can make.