The Quest to Finding Our Eye Health Hero
I was rummaging through some information on International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness’ (IAPB) website and I stumbled upon a poster for the Eye Health Hero nomination.

I was rummaging through some information on International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness’ (IAPB) website and I stumbled upon a poster for the Eye Health Hero nomination. The date I discovered this poster was 22nd August and the last date for nomination submission was 23rd August. Apart from the tight timeline, the other caveat was that the Eye Health Hero needed to be below 35 years old. Respecting the short time available, we filtered down the list of employees who were under 35 years. After a thorough round of voting and discussion, we brought it down to one name. It was Mission for Vision’s Field Supervisor (Programme Impact) Pranjal Daimary. The next step in this nomination was to submit a detailed profile of Pranjal and the compelling reasons as to why he should be selected as the Eye Health Hero.

Out of Coverage

Since I was only three months old in the organisation, I did not have any details about Pranjal and did not even have his contact number. I reached out to a few colleagues and got his mobile number, but unfortunately his number was out of coverage area. With time ticking rapidly, I dropped Pranjal a SMS and also sent him an email with the hope that I would get the response from one of the channels. Upon speaking to colleagues from the Kolkata office, I found that Pranjal was on a field visit to the remote parts of Arunachal Pradesh and that explained the lack of network. Based on the little information available with me, I started crafting his profile and was hoping against hope of getting in touch with him. I kept calling him till late evening, but I kept hearing the message “The number you are trying to reach is switched off or out of coverage area.” With massive disappointment, I left office to meet a friend for dinner. I was just about to have dinner and I saw my phone screen light up with a SMS notification. I hurriedly read through the message and it was Pranjal who had replied. 

The First Contact

Considering that it was close to 9 pm, Pranjal was hesitant to call and had dropped a SMS instead. I quickly picked up my diary and dashed out of the restaurant to speak to him (since there was music playing in the restaurant). Unfortunately, his voice was cracking up due to poor network and I struggled to hear him. After a couple of dropped calls, we managed to speak at length. He shared his humble beginnings and the many interesting conversations he has had with community members. His humility was quite evident through the conversation and he kept placing the spotlight on the community. I kept prodding him on his achievements and work but his responses were garnered towards the community members and other health workers. This displayed the immense dedication and unconditional commitment towards the betterment of the society and not bothering about personal achievements.

Let Us Talk Numbers

While you may have the most captivating story, but the development sector looks at impact mainly in numbers alone. Since my earlier questions on Pranjal’s personal accomplishments did not yield a favorable response, I started asking him close ended questions on numbers and impact. I was pleasantly surprised that I had finally found a solid lead for my story. During his tenure with Mission for Vision, Pranjal has visited over 3500 households and assessed 65+ eye screening camps. This is the point where Pranjal started opening up and shared his successes. He shared how the community members used to be very pleased when he used to visit their village. He remembered on the countless blessings he has received due to a successful surgery or by correction of refractive error with spectacles.

In his own words he shared, “After a successful cataract surgery when people appreciate my work and the support offered by my organization, I feel immensely proud and satisfied. This encouragement from the field is what keeps me motivated to do a lot more and improve the lives of people.”

Heroes Sans Capes

Similar to Pranjal, Mission for Vision’s field staff often work in the most challenging terrains of India. They have to travel to hard-to-reach locations and most often they do this on foot. These field workers are a critical link between the community and the eye-care service providers. Apart from creating greater awareness on eye-health, these staff members collect vital information from the ground that allows Mission for Vision and its partners to address the lacunae and develop interventions that provide maximum impact. We salute the indomitable spirit of these field staff who leave no stone unturned in enabling eye health services to communities in need.

The Final Verdict

Once I got all the information from Pranjal, I tied up the loose ends and crafted his story in the best possible manner. As I was reading through the nomination form one last time, I was left awe-inspired by his journey and I wished that I could shadow him while he is on a field-visit. I managed to finally submit the nomination form just in time and it was a matter of “Wait and Watch”. Within a few weeks, the news came through that Pranjal Daimary was selected as one of the Eye Health Heroes (2019) and his story was all over social media channels. I was stoked hearing this news and I called him again to share the news. Once again I had to embrace the message of “The number you are trying to reach is switched off or out of coverage area.”

Following traditions, I sent him an email and a SMS and as expected I got another humble and grounded response from him. His humility, dedication and commitment towards the society is what makes Pranjal a true Eye Health Hero. Kudos to the many Pranjals and other heroes who don’t need a cape to prove their superpowers.


About the Author:Shrikant Ayyangar is the communications manager at Mission for Vision, where he leads the organisation’s communications efforts and plays a key role in website management, social media outreach, content curation and branding activities.