Responding to the overwhelming success of Gurgaon's blindfolded "walk for vision" campaign, the Tej Kohli Foundation, named after a Costa Rica based philanthropist and entrepreneur, announced today it would cover the cost of monthly corneal transplants being carried out by Niramaya, a Gurgaon based NGO. The grants would entail an unsurpassed 150,000 INR per month for transplants in Gurgaon, as well as an additional 150,000 INR for each additional city in which the eye program expands. On a recent visit to India, philanthropist Tej Kohli became aware of the magnitude of this problem and pledged his support to help eradicate it. "I hope to help at least 1000 people receive corneal transplants," he said. "If we raise awareness of the need for corneal donors we can overcome this tragedy and help make a big difference in the rest of these child's lives."
Niramaya Secretary Virender Pankaj said that 168 eye donations were executed in Gurgaon in the first five months of this year. Dr. Hitendra Ahooja, Medial Director of Niramaya, agreed with Tej Kohli in that the number will exceed 1000 per annum in Gurgaon.
The Kohli foundation has high hopes for expansion of the transplant program. They are aiming to hit 5,000 transplants in the second year and 7,500 to 10,000 in the third year. The Foundation is currently developing a massive media campaign to be broadcast on NDTV, India's leading national TV station. In addition, they are committed to producing more events that will raise awareness with celebrity endorsements.
Over 3,000 people joined famed cricketers Mithun Manhas and Pradeep Sangwan to participate in the blindfolded "Walk for Vision" on August 29th. The monumental event is expected to find a place in the Limca Book of Records for a unique initiative by a social organization, says Niramaya.
"Walk for Vision" was led by Sukhbir Kataria, Minister of State for Agriculture and Cooperatives, Government of Haryana, and Gurgaon Police Commissioner S.S. Deswal. Both officials walked the entire stretch, pledged eye donations and encouraged everyone to do so. In addition, about 20 schools participated in the event, making 1800 children aware of the issue.
According to the World Health Organization, 45 million people are blind, and one-third of those live in India. Though estimates vary, Science Daily wrote that approximately 450,000 children in India are blind. The sad fact is that most of those cases are preventable - early care is key. While corneal blindness makes up only a portion of that number, corneal transplants represent a hopeful option when the cornea has become too damaged to function. The surgery has a success rate of more than 90 percent.
In a New York Times article in 2008, the president of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, Dr. Nag Rao, said that 100,000 corneas are needed for transplants each year in India but only about 10,000 are collected each year - and fewer than 5000 transplant operations are being performed annually.
The Tej Kohli Foundation is a non-profit organization striving to improve the lives of impoverished children. With the cooperation of more than 50 volunteers, the foundation started in Costa Rica, where it worked to reduce illiteracy and poverty. The foundation runs on the belief that the desire to help others, regardless of your background and circumstances, is a basic human drive, which when harnessed correctly, can provide inestimable benefits to those who receive it.