This is a story of how a father-son duo used crowd funding to secure cataract surgeries for restoring the vision of 100 blind women in rural Telangana.
As a school student Sathvik Reddy did not know how to extend his support to social causes, apart from donating money to individual charities and NGOs. But, during his summer holiday in 2016, his father Srinivas Reddy suggested that he start volunteering at a social service organisation.
When he enrolled at HelpAge India as a student volunteer, Sathvik did not realise that his life was about to change in so many unforeseen ways. According to him, “We went around slums like Borbanda near Hyderabad to assist old people. I met an old couple and, unfortunately, the wife was blind. After speaking to her for a while, I found out that her children thought she was a burden.”
According to a survey from 2007, around 37 million people around the world suffer from a visual impairment and over 15 million of these people are in India. This makes India home to the largest population of blind people in the world.
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The Washington Post reports that “uncorrected refractive errors,” such as near-sightedness and farsightedness, are the leading cause of blindness in most of the world. But, in developing countries, blindness mostly stems from cataracts, a visual impairment that clouds the lens of the eye.
Sathvik’s experience with people from rural backgrounds who are afflicted with blindness made him realise that a simple cataract surgery worth Rs. 2,000 could restore vision for a majority of them.
When he started attending Sri Chaitanya Jr College, the classes ate into all his time. He wanted to go house-to-house to collect funds for cataract surgeries but his 13-hour study schedule did not permit any time for social service. So he approached his father, who suggested they tie-up with a crowd funding platform in order to ensure donations are collected in a streamlined and transparent way.
Srinivas says, “When Sathvik was interning with HelpAge, he informed us about rehabilitation programmes for elders like geriatric treatment, free cataract treatment, and a care centre for senior citizens. Since he was most keen on helping blind people, we decided to go ahead with the cataract cause. We tied up with Operation Eyesight (India), an international organisation that aims to restore sight in developing countries and their partner hospital St Gregorios Balagram.”
This is how the father-son duo started running a campaign to eliminate curable blindness among 100 women in Telangana on ‘Fuel a Dream’ (FAD) in June.
Surprisingly, the campaign did splendidly well; they managed to collect Rs. 2, 28, 000. This enabled them to secure cataract surgeries for all the women in their target group.
Asked if there was a particular reason why they picked women for the sight restoration operations in the campaign, Srinivas said, “We observed that women were the most vulnerable population because firstly they are the last people to receive any kind of care or treatment at home. Women are expected to be hospitable and act as a helping hand. When these women lose vision in both their eyes, they become dependent on others and cannot perform many household chores. We’ve noticed that blind women are often deserted by their families and have to fend for themselves.”
Enthused with their success in restoring vision to a minor population of underprivileged women, the father-son duo, in October, launched another campaign on Fuel A Dream. But, this time, they aim to rid a whole village of blindness.
This campaign aims to raise money for both men as well as women, and Srinivas says, “We want to go village by village and eliminate cataract-led blindness so that these villages can be tagged as being “blindness free.”
It is essential to keep in mind that cataracts can be cured only through surgery. To help provide eye-care services and bring vision to the lives of 50 underprivileged men and women in Telangana, donate here.