I see the world through my mother’s eyes,” says Ravi Hiremath who was born blind. The 16-year-old Dharwad resident led a thousand participants in a Blind Walk organised by Rotary Districts 3170, 3180, 3190, Nayana Jyothi Trust and Project Vision. The two-kilometre walk took place at Bangalore, Tumkur, Mysore, Hubli and Dharwad during the National Eye Donation Fortnight Aug 25–Sep 8.
“We blindfolded the participants so they could feel what it is like to walk without eyesight and at the end of the Blind Walk they pledged to donate their eyes,” says PDG Ganesh Bhat, D 3170. This new approach to draw more eye donors also promoted the toll free eye donation number ‘104’ that collects corneas of the deceased for donation to the nearest eye bank.
The idea of the blind walk was conceived by Fr George Kannanthanam, founder of Project Vision. D 3190, which has been part of this walk for the last two years, proposed a joint district event and this resulted in the signing up of “28,000 vision ambassadors within a week,” says Subramaniam Jayaraman, PR Chairman, District 3190.
A member of the Nayana Jyothi Trust, he is anguished that “every day over 30 children under the age of three wait at an eye hospital for a corneal transplant (60 percent of avoidable blind are children), an extremely painful situation. The little ones have their whole life in front of them, but will live in darkness for want of donors.”
He adds that there are over 700 eye banks in India, and they hardly collect 26,000 reusable corneas, but the demand graph is soaring at 1,50,000. “Lack of awareness is a major problem,” points out Rtn Ravi Kumar, Avoidable Blindness and Eye Donation Committee Chair, D 3190. While many say they have no idea about donating their eyes Jayaraman recalls the accidental death of a clubmate’s son whose eyes were donated to the Manipal Hospital. “The very fact that ‘he is somewhere around and seeing us’ consoled the parents and helped them fight their grief.”