“Let everyone see”: The Project Vision (TPV)

Blindness is one of the most distressing human situations and sadly, also one of the disabilities with more number of people involved. India has more than one third of the world’s 39 million visually challenged people.

The Project Vision was started in response to a great human suffering. The statistics regarding the number of persons who are visually challenged are very touching for anyone who is socially concerned — 39 million completely blind among the 263 million who are visually impaired globally. For Indians, there is additional shocking information — one third of the world’s visually challenged people live in India (15 million). That figure works out to be roughly a little more than one per cent of the population.

The Project Vision was founded by George Kannanthanam, CMF, a Catholic priest and social worker, who lived for 12 years with persons who had lost their sight completely due to leprosy, HIV or were born visually challenged. This experience provoked him to spend the rest of his life dedicated to the cause of the visually challenged and thus was born The Project Vision (TPV) in 2013.

The good news is that about 20% of all visually challenged people can see again with a corneal transplant. This can be done only through eye donation after death. But sadly, eye donation is not a part of our social or religious customs or practices.

Despite having about 750 eye banks across India, eye collection has not been much. India had only 53,000 corneas collected in 2015, whereas the need for new corneal transplants in the country is about 140,000. Thus about 100,000 persons are added to the list of persons who are waiting for a transplant. The objective of Project Vision is to reduce this gap between the demand and the supply of corneas.

Participants at the Guwahati Blind Walk 2016

The movement model

The Project Vision is conceived as a movement. The goal of giving sight to everybody in the world cannot be achieved through a centre approach. It has to be spread wide into different countries and places, being adopted as a part of the work of various social, religious, cultural, linguistic and corporate groups and organizations. Started in Bangalore, the movement is slowly spreading to other places through various social, religious, cultural, corporate and educational related national bodies and organizations. It is floated as a global movement since most of the nations in the world have a shortage of corneal donations.

TPV groups have been initiated in different places including the U.S. and Canada. It has been registered as a non-profit organization in the U.S. in the name of TPV Global US. Links have been created in the United Nations and UNICEF with a view to develop this as a global movement.

Vision Ambassadors

For eye donation to be successful as a national movement, we need Vision Ambassadors. Despite the large number of eye Banks and lot of money spent on awareness, yet eye donations are not happening enough. This is because we don’t have a system of linking the bereaved family and the eye bank. Project Vision has developed an idea to solve this problem called Vision Ambassadors.

Participants and volunteers at the Guwahati Blind Walk 2016

Vision Ambassadors are committed persons who know the facts and the process of eye donation from the community. They will do the coordination between the bereaved family and the eye bank in the event of death. If there is one Vision Ambassador in every residential lay out, association, institution or organization, eye donation will be a great success. They will also create awareness in the community. About 2000 people have joined as Vision Ambassadors with TPV and many more are joining in it.

TPV achievements

  • About 60 persons have regained their sight through corneal collections coordinated by Project Vision members.
  • More than 30,000 people have pledged to donate their eyes after death due to our efforts.
  • About 2000 persons have promised to promote this programme as Vision Ambassadors.
<strong>Guwahati Blind Walk 2016</strong>
The largest eye donation campaign in the world was conducted in connection with World Sight Day on October 13 through a very innovative programme called World Blind Walk organized in five locations across five countries by Project Vision.

Hon’ble MP of Guwahati, Smt. Bijoya Chakravarty, flagged off the Guwahati Blind Walk along with the Archbishop of Guwahati, and Brahmachari Biplabji of the Art of Living, and pledged to donate her eyes in the programme. Stronger together, the Guwahati  Blind Walk brought together various organizations across the city from social, developmental, medical, academic and religious backgrounds on a single platform to push for a global movement on eye donations. Members representing various NGOs from the city joined together as organizing partners: Rotary Club Guwahati, Young Indians, Lions Club, The Art of living, North East Community Health Association (NECHA), Shri. Sankaradeva Netralaya, Archdiocese of Guwahati, CRI North East, National Federation of the Blind, Northeast Development Centre.

After the Walk, a brief cultural programme was arranged from the visually challenged and all gathered took the pledge to donate their eyes. “Let everyone see” is a very relevant theme, and Blind Walk Guwahati 2016 was a meaningful and innovative tool to conscientize the public on eye donation.

The Blind Walk

An innovative tool to spread the message of eye donation developed by Project Vision is Blind Walk. Making sighted people blindfold themselves and walk about a kilometre led by a completely blind person is a lifetime experience which leads them to pledge to donate their eyes after death. The creative and new method caught the attention of the public and the media.

Blind Walk 2016 was organized as a global event on World Sight Day with Walks being organized in about five countries and fifty five locations in the U.S., China, Nepal, Sri Lanka and most places of significance in India. It was carried out simultaneously on the same day on October 13, World Sight Day.

Stronger Together

The global theme for World Sight Day 2016 from the International Association of Prevention of Blindness is ‘Stronger Together’. Keeping to the spirit of this theme, World Blind Walk is organized by bringing together more than 500 organizations coordinated by Project Vision. They include religious, social, developmental, health, educational, linguistic and cultural entities, but all coming together to promote the cause of the visually challenged people. In every location, there are about ten agencies who are partnering together, not just for participating, but for organizing the event, including sharing the expenses. Thus Blind Walk is realizing the goal of ‘Stronger Together’.