Being able to see clearly changed his life

Being able to see clearly changed his life

When Kenneth Youngstein first came out of the eye clinic with his new pair of glasses, the first thing he said while looking up at the sky was, "Look mommy, birds!"

The author of The Singing Tree who once wanted to be a surgeon but due to an accident couldn't become one, has been developing health and education programmes for doctors, nurses and people for over forty years now.

His illustrated new book is a part of his venture with Orbis, an international non-profit dedicated to the prevention of blindness and treatment of blind eye diseases to help people and specifically, children understand the need for regular eye check-ups and the need to wear glasses.

The book, which was launched in India on 3rd October talks about the feelings of isolation and rejection that one faces with disability, some of which was also faced by the author during his own childhood. The author disclosed that because he was visually impaired while he was growing up, he understands the joy of being able to see clearly.

His journey

Kenneth narrated that he was often told by his family members to not wear glasses all the time, but as soon as he got the opportunity to wear them, he would quickly do so to see the beautiful things around him.

Kenneth started working with Orbis six years ago. He realised that a child who cannot see, can read and this is how the inspiration to write this book came to him. He introduced Orbis to Room to Read,
a non-profit focused on girls education and children's literacy. The two NG's collaborated and now Room To Read is the publisher of The Singing Tree.

Speaking at the launch, Rahul Ali- the country Director-India Orbis said that the solution for visual impairment is usually just a pair of glasses but due to lack of knowledge the solution is neither known nor implemented. He adds that the vision i.e. ability to see is life-changing for an individual. He said that with the help of this book they aim to bridge the gap between the knowledge, attitude and practice.

What's wrong with the attitude

Globally, uncorrected refractive errors account for over 80% of visual impairment among school-aged children. It is a problem that can be easily diagnosed and corrected with a simple test and a pair of spectacles. Still, it remains the main cause of moderate and severe visual impairment among millions of people across the globe.

In India, over 9 million children are visually impaired and because of lack of knowledge and awareness have accepted it to be a permanent condition.

The problem at the first level is with the teachers as well parents who do not consider the problem significant enough. They feel the child is fooling around and there isn't anything serious to worry about.

Secondly, even if the parents take their children to get their eyes checked and the use of spectacles is adviced, the children due to peer pressure or consciousness do not want to wear them.

They want to change the landscape

Orbis is a global non-governmental organisation that is working in the area of prevention and treatment of blindness for over 30 years. Orbis says it transforms lives by providing the skills, resources and knowledge needed to deliver accessible quality eye care. Working in collaboration with local partners, Orbis provides hands-on training, strengthens eye care infrastructure and advocates for the prioritisation of eye health on public health agendas. In India, the focus is especially on child eye health, where the non profit has established 31 centres of Children's Eye Centres: across 17 states.

Orbis has also collaborated with Room To Read, a leading non-profit focused on girls' education and children's literacy to publish The Singing Tree in many local languages for South Africa, Zambia and Cameroon. While Room To Read is distributing the book to local schools and libraries, Orbis distributes the book through its clinics and public outreach programmes.

The book and its illustrations have been created keeping in mind children who are unable to consume content as suffer from farsightedness, so the pictures and bigger text makes it readable. The book tells a story about a girl who thinks that people will make fun of her if she wears spectacles. In the process she is becoming lonely because other children don't want to play with her as she can't see properly. The book ends with her getting accepted with her spectacles as her vision is better. Her friends make more educated decisions and accept her.

It's a noble effort to make the world see clearly even it's only physical. The rest of it is a personal journey.

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