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Corneal Blindness in India
According to the World Health Organization, corneal blindness is the world’s fourth-leading cause of blindness. The affliction can be caused by Vitamin A deficiency, after-effects of infections, eye trauma, congenital disease, or ineffective medical or home remedies to existing vision impairments.
The good news? In many cases, corneal blindness is reversible—if a donor cornea is available. Unfortunately, corneas can only be donated after death and family members do not often choose to donate a loved one’s cornea.
In fact, in India, an average of only 38,000 corneas are donated annually, although 25,000 new cases of corneal blindness are identified each year. At that rate, it would take 112 years for all corneal blind in India to get new corneas. If only half the deaths in India led to corneal donation, the waiting list could be wiped out in just months.
One organization, Niramaya Charitable Trust, believes that quality eye care is the right of every Indian, regardless of social status, caste, or demographics. For nearly a decade, it has been running vision centers in and around Gurgaon, Haryana. In addition to providing eye care, Niramaya Charitable Trust has been working tirelessly since 2005 to raise awareness about corneal blindness and cornea donation.
How? With a plan that’s unique to India and marries special events with a cause to raise resources and enhance awareness. Niramaya Charitable Trust has hosted events such as a Walk for Vision, Run for Vision, Walkathon, and Gurgaon Carnival to both raise awareness for corneal blindness and offer companies an opportunity to reach the masses through sponsorship.
Raising Funds and Spreading the Word
Most events—such as the runs and walks—focus on a health benefit to the participant. In many cases, the participant is asked to donate a small amount or raise funds to participate. Sponsoring companies can use the events to introduce products, offer samples, or raise awareness about their brands.
Niramaya Charitable Trust is employing social media to raise awareness—the Gurgaon Carnival alone had thousands of followers on Facebook and tens of thousands of participants at the event, which was held in early September. Celebrity endorsements and appearances are also used to launch and sustain awareness campaigns.
A Vision for the Future
Over the years, Niramaya Charitable Trust’s efforts have been rewarded with enhanced awareness, increased cornea donations, and an impressive showing of support from the public and private sectors. In fact, since 2005, thanks to the efforts of Niramaya Charitable Trust, eye donations in Gurgaon have risen from zero to 671. In July, State Bank of India donated a specifically designed ambulance to be used to harvest corneas.
In just six years, Niramaya Charitable Trust has increased awareness of an affliction using both traditional and innovative campaigns throughout Gurgaon. But it feels its efforts are ready to expand throughout India. It would like to see its events reach a level of the Delhi Marathon in terms of platform—so they can become self sustaining and increase both funds and awareness for corneal transplants and local eye banks. Once it perfects its event and sponsorship models, it plans to take the concept national—in turn, increasing the number of eye donations in India and impacting the lives of thousands more corneal blind and their families.
Have you participated in a Niramaya Charitable Trust event? How can sponsorships and events help this organization (and others like it) Rise and impact the lives of even more individuals? What other organizations are living the Rise philosophy by using unique tactics to impact the lives of many?
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