Welcome to May!
Our Young Person of the Month is Babatunde Bale from Nigeria! Babatunde is the co-founder of The R.E.T.I.N.A (Restoration of Eyecare Through Innovation and Awareness) Initiative. A youth-led non-profit organization that promotes primary eye care towards the eradication of preventable blindness in underserved African communities. He is also a HarvardX fellow, an alumnus of Clinton Global Initiative University founded by former U.S President Bill Clinton and the third place winner of the 2021 OD Impact Challenge.
Babatunde is passionate about community eye health and has been involved in different community-based interventions that have impacted the lives of more than 1,000 people in Nigeria. He has been recognized by Studentpreneur Initiative as one of The 100 Most Inspiring Nigerian Students in 2020.
Read his amazing story below and be inspired!
Babatunde Bale is an emerging Optometrist at the University of Benin, Nigeria. He is the co-founder of The R.E.T.I.N.A (Restoration of Eyecare Through Innovation and Awareness) Initiative. A non-profit organization that focuses on eradicating avoidable blindness in African communities.
Babatunde has a keen interest in community eye health and has been involved in different community-based interventions that have impacted the lives of more than 1,000 people in Nigeria. Some of these projects include; Mobile Eye Clinic project, World Sight Day Community Eye Health outreach (by Lions Club International), HEAL (Healthy Eyes Awareness Literacy) the World campaign, Sickle Cell Retinopathy Awareness (by Sickle Cell Aid Foundation), iCare4Africa Project among others.
Through their initiative, HEAL the World project, which focuses on not only increasing awareness about preventable blindness among high school students but also training teachers about first aid treatment for eye injuries, they have increased response to emergency eye injuries which drastically reduced vision loss by more than 70% in Edo and Lagos State.
On How He Began
Babatunde has a keen interest in public eye health, concerning how it affects human lives and their interaction with the community. He enjoys talking to people and building systems that will eradicate preventable blinding diseases towards increasing access to universal health coverage, especially in Africa. He strongly believes that interventions for health promotion have the potential to increase the adoption of healthy behaviours as well as the uptake of health services.
Babatunde began The R.E.T.I.N.A Initiative after his family experienced an unfortunate incident. His uncle, suffered from advanced glaucoma, and he eventually lost his eyesight. At the early stage, Babatunde says, his uncle relied on the use of herbal concoctions to improve his condition but he did not get any better. By the time Babatunde’s uncle sought professional medical care, he had already lost most of his vision. This incident motivated Babatunde to positively change the status quo of poor eye healthcare in underserved communities. Their focus area includes increasing awareness, community eye health interventions and research.
On His Successes
In 2019 they launched the HEAL (Healthy Eyes Awareness Literacy) the World project. A nationwide campaign that focuses on increasing awareness about preventable blindness among high school students and also training teachers about first aid treatment for eye injuries. So far, they have impacted the lives of more than 300 students and teachers in Edo and Lagos State. This program, Babatunde says, has helped increase response to emergency eye injuries and have drastically reduced vision loss by more than 70%.
During the covid-19 pandemic, they secured a grant to purchase personal protective equipment for frontline health workers in 3 public hospitals in Lagos. In Nigeria, Lagos State alone accounted for more than 40% of the recorded covid-19 cases (Nigeria Center for Disease Control, 2020). These hospitals served a population of more than 1, 000 and were at risk of being infected with covid-19.
Also, Babatunde and his team have been involved in different community-based interventions like the iCare4Africa project, Mobile Eye Clinic and World Glaucoma Week. They identified people living in remote communities with different visual impairment conditions. Over 600 people (e.g farmers, traders and housewives) have benefitted from their programs. This has helped improve their functional vision, increased their household per capita expenditure (i.e. less poverty) and the quality of life.
Currently, The R.E.T.I.N.A initiative is at the ideation phase of a cataract surgery distribution model called MobEye Clinic, a community-based and technology-driven project that identifies people suffering from cataract in remote communities and facilitates easy access to affordable treatment. Within 5 years of operations, it is designed to facilitate and sustain sight-saving cataract surgery delivery to over 6,000 people living in rural communities without access to quality eye healthcare across the 6 states in the geo-political zones of Nigeria.
On the Obstacles he Encountered.
One major challenge they have encountered is getting approval from school administrators concerning time allocation for their project schedules. Babatunde says, they usually write to many schools about their project but they only get few responses. And even the few that do respond are reluctant to give them substantial time. To overcome this, they have opted to discuss the project with the school principals and come to a compromise on what works best for the school schedule. They also agree on a standpoint that achieves a win-win situation for both the school and their organization.
In addition, Babatunde says, the problem of project funding has also been a constant challenge. Initially, they depended on raising funds from friends and family members to meet their financial obligations. They realized that they cannot continue to depend on this method to source funds. Thus, they sought other sources of funding i.e. grants and leveraged on partnerships to maximize their limited resources.
His Words of Advice to Young People
“It is possible to juggle between education and running an organization if you develop a healthy and positive mindset. Time management cannot be overemphasized especially for students, whether leading an organization or volunteering. In as much as we are passionate about contributing to the development of our community, we need to also focus on our academics. It is possible to achieve both if you are determined and disciplined. Therefore, we need to do the right thing at the right time. “
Who will be the next Young Person of the Month?
You can be the next Opportunity Desk Young Person of the Month! All you have to do is get a friend to recommend your work or fill out the nomination form here. We want to use the platform to recognize and celebrate the efforts of amazing young people around the world. Oh! And you must be an active Opportunity Desk member, either as a fan, reader or subscriber!