Its the 1st of May and instead of running into the North Sea to greet the rising sun over the first of the Scottish summer skies, I am writing this blog post. ‘May Dip’ this year would have been a welcome contrast to the getting in sea on one of February’s frosty mornings as pictured above. My days in St Andrews came to an abrupt end, but I am left with special memories formed with the best people imaginable.
Indeed, this last month could well have marked the beginning of a new era. Admittedly, the consequences that loom are much more menacing than the initial expectations of most. The only thing that seems certain is uncertainty. We do not know how deep this will go, how long it will take to recover or what new normal may develop out of the ashes of this acute phase.
I have received several questions about what will happen to the Arclight India project in light of the current situation. After over a month of waiting, reading, listening and conferring with my friends in India, I am announcing that the Project will be delayed initially for a year. It comes from a heavy heart as there was such positive momentum building towards a start date in the Autumn. In sum of the total fallout from this pandemic, the postponement of this project is infenesimently small. However, to readjust to a new reality took some time.
In the UK we are blessed with a system that has allowed us to adhere to strict lockdown rules. Financial support for lost earnings, supermarkets with a constant supply chain and a world leading public health service make this period possible, albeit uncomfortable. If we then appreciate the impact this pandemic has had on our country – tens of thousands of fatalities and nationwide stupor – it becomes clear that countries like India may await a tsunami. Support for the poor is lacking and the public health system is propped up by a feeble 1.3% of the country’s GDP. Technically, India has been in lockdown since the 24th of March, but the recent statistics do not show progress towards flattening the upwards trend of new cases. The reason for this may be simply that people earning less than £2 a day cannot afford to adhere to governmental lockdown orders. We may see continual growth in new cases if the situation worsens still.
My friends in India have informed me that all eye hospitals are only running emergency services. Further, there will be no more funding for eye-care projects this year from the state. Dr. Blaikie expects at least a 12-month delay to all of his international studies.
The decision to postpone the motorcycle expedition in India is therefore the only reasonable option.
But all is not lost – the project will go ahead as soon as it is appropriate to do so. In fact, almost all of the preparation is transferable, the difference being only the proposed start of Autumn 2021. Arguably, there will be a greater need than ever for eye care projects once we are able to widen the scope of medical aid once again.
Over the coming year I will continue with my medical degree, transferring to Glasgow Medical School to start clinical years of training. I will also continue to work alongside Dr. Blaikie, beginning UK-based testing for an Arclight App which we have developed with top humans Oliver Iyer and Struan Hogg. The app will create a telemedicine platform linking rural areas with low resources to ophthalmologists in a different location. We hope that through the App, any health care worker can use their Arclight attached to a smartphone to get expert diagnosis for their patients. If the UK-based testing is successful, it may be that I can put the App to use and develop it further in India. Very, very exciting.
So, hang in there world! Let’s look forward to a future where we can come close to people outside our households and hopefully travel internationally. In the meantime, we must wait for the storm to pass before we can grow again. We all have a part to play in minimising its intensity and duration but we can be active too in sculpting the landscape on which the dust settles. It may be that our shoots are damaged but our roots go deep, and, when the time is right, nourishing the lives of others for collective growth of the community will be imperative.
For those that have supported the project financially and would like to discuss their donation, or if anyone has any other questions please get in touch.