Hesperian Health Guides
How can people work together to prevent blindness?
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Go back to Penda's story at the beginning of this chapter. Look at the chain of causes that led to her baby losing sight in one eye. How could the story have been changed to have a happier ending? How can people in your community change the conditions that make children go blind when it could be prevented?
Gardening to prevent blindness
In Bangladesh, thousands of children go blind every year because they do not eat enough foods that have vitamin A. Delwara Hasina lives in a village in Bangladesh with her husband and 3 children. Although Mrs. Hasina has no blind children in her own family, she and other people in her village decided to help prevent blindness. So she contacted Banchte Shekha, an organization of women helping other women in rural villages.
At Banchte Shekha, Mrs. Hasina learned that certain fruits and vegetables contain enough vitamin A to prevent blindness. She also got training on how to grow vegetables from Banchte Shekha workers who had been trained earlier by Helen Keller International, an organization that works the world over to prevent blindness. Now Mrs. Hasina grows vegetables on a small plot (30 square meters) next to her home and on another plot the same size next to her parents’ home.
“Before, our gardening was seasonal and we grew only a few things like bottle gourd and beans,” Mrs. Hasina said. “Now, we grow more than 10 varieties of vegetables, spices, and fruits all year round.” She and other women are encouraging families to start gardens. It does not take much space to grow enough vegetables with vitamin A for a family. “I cook some of my family’s daily meal from the garden,” she says. “My children like red amaranth (lal shak) and Indian spinach, which I grow throughout the year.”
Mrs. Hasina sells her extra produce in the local village market. She uses the money to buy additional food and educational materials for her children. “The amount of money is small, but it helps me to meet the children’s needs,” she said.
Mrs. Hasina’s garden is one of more than 600,000 household gardens in Bangladesh that are part of this international gardening project. See information about how to contact Helen Keller International and start gardens in your community.