We often hear the line “Change begins with you”, but very few of us successfully implement it. Having witnessed several challenges in his life, Supriyo Sarkar was determined to bring about this change; not only for himself but also for the society at large. In the year 2008, his father who was the only breadwinner of the family met with an accident that left him bedridden. His mother shouldered the responsibility of the house by taking up tailoring work. To supplement the household income, Supriyo took up odd jobs. Though he was dedicated to these jobs, he wanted a meaningful role that could create a positive impact on the society and uplift people out of poverty. In the year 2010, he applied for a job at Mission for Vision (MFV) and got selected for it. This new role not only helped him manage the household responsibilities with ease, but also helped him make a transformational change for the community.
Supriyo works as a Community Health Worker (CHW) at MFV; where he independently manages community mobilisation and patient care activities such as admission, OPD management and follow-up post the surgery. With 11+ years of work experience in community ophthalmology, he continues to study various courses through the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) and he has also undergone a six-month training course on Optical Dispensing. He has played a critical role in applying the learning from this course to set up dispensing units in five of the MFV Vision Centres in Kolkata. His keen interest towards learning and change was noticed by his colleagues when he was among the first CHWs who was ready to adapt to the new Vision Centre MIS system. He mastered the new system quickly and even went on to encourage his colleagues to use the new software. He is a well-known face in the community and is often addressed as the “Eye Care Brother”.
In order to ensure maximum referrals from the community; he liaises with local government authorities and Urban Primary Health Centres (UPHC) officials. In his tenure of 11+ years with MFV, Supriyo has organised 100+ eye screening camps, conducted 6550+ door-to-door visits, identified 6100+ patients for treatment and has also organised school screening in 50+ schools; thus, facilitating screening for 6500+ students. These were mostly organised for people living in urban slums of West Bengal. In addition to the above, he also helped with community awareness campaigns such as focused group discussions, auto-rickshaw announcements, street plays, etc.
Supriyo’s journey in community eye care may appear to be smooth, but he has faced numerous challenges as well. There have been instances where the community has resisted change and there were some community leaders who have used intimidation and threats to keep him away. However, he fearlessly carried on with his work and has navigated his way through the community with proper counselling and his own special ways of negotiation.
Presently, Supriyo manages the eye care activities at the Ahiritola Vision Centre where he is the first point of contact for communities and ensures end-to-end delivery of eye care. His calming presence makes the community members feel comfortable and his contributions have been appreciated by his colleagues and the partnering institutions of Mission for Vision.
“The joys that I experience in serving the poor communities cannot be expressed in words. Change can be hard and there will be some resistance, but we need to boldly move ahead. Moving people out of vicious cycle of poverty should be our first priority. I am grateful to be a part of an organisation like Mission for Vision that focuses on bringing a transformative change by enablement of quality eye care for all. The blessing I receive from the community members is what encourages me to do more.”
– Supriyo Sarkar