________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 18 . . . . January 15, 2016


Saving Eyesight: Adventures of Seva Around the World.

Linda Pruessen.
Richmond Hill, ON: Firefly Books, 2015.
64 pp., trade pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-77085-615-8.

Subject Headings:
Seva Canada Society-Juvenile literature.
Ophthalmology-Developing countries-Juvenile literature.
Blindness-Developing countries-Prevention-Juvenile literature.
Blindness-Developing countries-Treatment-Juvenile literature.
Eye-Diseases-Developing countries-Prevention -Juvenile literature.
Eye-Diseases-Developing countries-Treatment-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

*** /4



Aravind is now the busiest eye care organization in the world, serving more than 2.5 million men, women and children each year. Together, Seva and Aravind have developed a system in which fees are charged only to those who can afford them. Two-thirds of the people treated by Aravind have received their care for free. Thanks in part to Aravind's efforts, the estimated number of blind people in India fell from 8.9 million in 1990 to 6.7 million in 2002, a decline of 25 per cent.

Aravind started as an 11-bed hospital in a rented house. Six beds were reserved for patients who could not pay and five for those who could afford a modest fee. Today, Aravind is a network of eye hospitals with close to 4,000 beds. In 2010, it provided more than 300,000 eye surgeries. In addition, the clinic now acts as a mentor to other eye care institutions.

Most North Americans likely take their eyesight for granted. Sadly, in some parts of the developing world, blindness is common. There, it is a disease of poverty, possibly related to diet, lack of clean water and hygienic practices, genetics and exposure to ultraviolet light. In fact, 90% of the nearly 285 million people who are visually impaired live in developing countries. Seva is a Vancouver-based organization, founded in 1982, that works in 13 of the world's poorest countries. Since its inception, it has helped more than 3.5 million people to see again.

      Saving Eyesight begins with a brief introduction that is followed by four chapters, the first of which deals with the anatomy of the eye, developments and inventions related to eye care, what is involved in an eye examination, and vision problems such as cataracts, nearsightedness, farsightedness and those caused by infections. How poverty and blindness go hand in hand is the focus of the second chapter. Low income, no access to eye care clinics and professionals, and being a female are some of the reasons why people in certain regions have visual impairment. For example, some cultures revere sons rather than daughters, and so girls are less likely to get an education. If a family has one son and one daughter, both needing eyeglasses, and can only afford one pair, it is the son who would get the glasses.

      The third chapter is the longest and details the many projects and programs that Seva and its partner organizations provide in 13 countries which include, among others, India, Nepal, Cambodia, Tanzania, Burundi, Guatemala and Malawi. Each country is highlighted in several pages which also feature a small inset map showing where the country is located as well as a thumbnail sketch describing the geography or famous landmarks. Along with statistics and information about eye programs and partnerships, there are personal stories that demonstrate not only the kind of medical assistance that the people are receiving, but also how that assistance has been life-changing for them. For instance, cataract surgery allowed a Nepalese woman to see her two-year-old daughter for the first time; a man from India received a corneal implant, enabling him to work to support himself and his family; and, following an operation which restored his vision, an 11-year-old boy from Malawi was able to read his textbooks and play soccer with his friends. Seva's work ranges from providing antibiotics for eye infections to cataract surgery, the establishment of storefront vision centres, the training of local people in clinical skills and program management, school vision screening programs, eye camps for vision screening, the provision of free eyeglasses, and early detection programs to identify children with visual impairment.

      The final chapter offers suggestions on how readers can help to raise money for Seva, and it also explains how the money is used. For example, $25 will provide eyeglasses for five people while a $50 donation pays for cataract surgery that includes a lens implant, post-operative care, medications and transportation.

      Throughout the book are interesting facts and statistics related to the topic. Illustrations consist of some small inset maps, diagrams and colourful photographs depicting the countries and people served by Seva. Those people fortunate enough to have been helped by this wonderful organization have had their lives transformed by the restoration of their eyesight. A table of contents, a glossary and an index are included.


Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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ISSN 1201-9364
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