Responding to the changing needs of time, a creative ministry by the Claretians to reach out to the visually challenged persons found its best expression in a BlindWalk organised on 10th of October, World Sight Day. About 100,000 persons walked blindfolded in 227 locations spread across five countries, under the aegis of Project Vision, a global eye donation movement started by Fr George Kannanthanam, Catholic priest and social worker.
The sixth edition of BlindWalk was conducted to focus attention on the issues of the visually challenged persons and to promote eye donation. This is particularly relevant for India since it has 15 million blind persons - accounting for worlds one third blind population, as per WHO. Three million of these visually challenged persons could see again through eye donation.
It is unfortunate that only 68409 persons donated their eyes in India last year despite nine million deaths as per National Program for the Control of Blindness(NPCB). Similar situations exist in most parts of the world and there is a shortage of corneas in most countries. The number persons who donated eyes in Karnataka was only 5561. Whereas neighbouring Tamil Nadu had almost double than this - 10504, topping the national list.
Large number of Christian organisations were involved with the BlindWalk program in different places. The BlindWalk at Macau was organised by the St Joseph’s University while the Walk in Manila was organised by Institute of Consecrated Life in Asia. Eighteen BlindWalks were organised by Chetanalaya, the Delhi Archdiocesan Social Service Centre in Delhi and Haryana. BlindWalks in Guwahati and Shillong were organised by NavJan, a social society by the Claretians. The Norbertine Fathers under the leadership of Fr Jovial organised four Walks in Calicut District. Vincent De Paul society, AICUF and Catholic Health Association of India has been supporting the movement in all the places.
Bangalore BlindWalk started from St Josephs School, Museum road and ended at Samsung Opera, Brigade Road. Mr Shalav Modi, Country General Manager, Alcon India, a global leader in eye care flagged off the BlindWalk at St Joseph’s School, Museum road. The BlindWalk ended with a pledge by all participants to donate their eyes, led by Mr Basavaraj, Commissioner for disabilities, Government of Karnataka.
The 500 strong BlindWalk was coordinated by Project Vision with non governmental organisations and institutions like Samarthanam, Rotary Abilities, St Joseph’s College, YsMen International, AIFO, Vincent De Paul Society and Commission for Differently Abled, Archdiocese of Bangalore. It was supported by corporates like Alcon, Essilor, Samsung, Titan and Makki Lifestyle Corporation.
BlindWalk is a novel idea developed by Project Vision to express solidarity with the visually challenged people with the caption ‘Feel Being Blind’. Through this experience people are motivated to donate their eyes. Conducted in Canada, China, Philippines, Srilanka and India, it the largest eye donation campaign in the world.
The specialty of BlindWalk is that it blindfolds sighted people and takes them on a Walk in public place. Started with the first BlindWalk on the M G Road in Bangalore in 2014, about 750 BlindWalks have been conducted so far in various and settings like educational institutions, companies and public places. The most touching aspect of the BlindWalk is that it is led by visually challenged people. While they walk in the front with their white canes, the blindfolded participants hold on to them to find their way.
The second objective is to create Vision Ambassadors. Despite having pledges done, most people are not able to take the steps for actual donation, when a death happens in their family. The answer is to have Vision Ambassadors in every community, who will do the coordination with the diseased family and the Eye Bank. Third objective is to break the myths surrounding eye donations. Anyone can donate their eyes. There is no age limit for eye donations. People with any diseases can also donate their eyes. The face will not be disfigured due to eye donation, which can be done at home itself through a simple operation.
Christians are invited to follow the example of Jesus who gave sight to the blind. There are six miracle stories of Jesus curing the blind. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says clearly that “donation of organs after death is legitimate and meritorious” (N0. 2301). Pope Francis is a champion of the cause of the persons with disabilities and has personally endorsed and encouraged the eye donation efforts of Project Vision. All religious support he cause of eye donation.
Anyone can make a decision to donate their eyes through an sms pledge. The format is TPV Your Name Place and send it to 7039670396. You will get a return sms with instructions. For eye donation in metros in India, you can dial 1919. For Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, the number for eye collection is 104. You can contact any eye banks directly in your area or Project Vision (9448071973 in the event of death. Find details see www.theprojectvision.org
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