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Approximately 285 million people worldwide live with limited vision and blindness, although 80% of these visual impairments are actually avoidable, according to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB). IAPB, together with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other worldwide communities and organisations, observe World Sight Day every second Thursday of October. This year, it falls on 10 October.
Source: International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB)
On this day, associations, businesses and government bodies are encouraged to hold events to raise awareness of blindness and vision impairment. More importantly, the objective is to educate the masses and encourage governments to participate and set aside funds for blindness prevention programs. Euromonitor International takes a look at a couple of these events around the world and at what more can be done to support this meaningful cause.
Source: Courtesy of Seva Canada/© Ellen Crystal photography
The influx of technology and information increasingly inches mankind towards a world without borders. Global non-profit sight organisations have spread their reach beyond single countries and across borders to those who truly require vision facilities and support regardless of nationality. It is thus crucial to ensure sufficient funds to support these causes. Fundraising is thus a key component in the execution and implementation of these vision programmes. In line with World Sight Day, several fundraising efforts can be observed, with one of the largest fundraising efforts coming from Optometry Giving Sight, which organises the World Sight Day Challenge, an annual global fundraising campaign that targets the optical community to spearhead personal, community or business fundraising efforts. Funds are then channelled to provide optometry training to individuals, establish vision centres with appropriate facilities and providing physical eyewear for those in need.
Source: Optometry Giving Sight
Other fundraising includes a series of cocktail parties planned in Sydney and Brisbane by the RANZCO Eye Foundation and Glaucoma Australia for non-profit eye health organisations’ causes.
Creating awareness is the other key objective of World Sight Day, with events centred on experiencing a day or completing a task as a blind or visually-impaired person. In Adelaide, Australia, the Royal Society for the Blind is inviting individuals to participate in a ‘dark to light’ walk to support the local vision-impaired community. The walk starts before sunrise and ends at 09:00hrs. The walk from dark to light symbolises how the life of the blind and visually impaired has improved in South Australia.
Dining in total darkness started with researchers trying to mimic what a blind person experiences, and entrepreneurs have brought the concept of dining in the dark to a restaurant setting. Since then, the concept has made its rounds in Paris, London, Barcelona, Moscow, Bangkok, Warsaw and Singapore. To celebrate World Sight Day 2013, Seva Canada is inviting diners to experience a full course meal with music and entertainment all without the sense of sight. Funds raised go towards Seva Canada’s cause of restoring sight and preventing blindness in developing countries such as Nepal, Tibet, Zambia, Rwanda, and Cambodia, amongst others.
World Sight Day started as an initiative in 2000, and, after 13 years, fundraising efforts are still going strong. However, a cursory check on most global non-profit sight organisations also seems to
indicate that they receive little or no funding support from government bodies. While no organisation expects to solely rely on government funding, one wonders how long it can sustain being heavily reliant on public donations.
Relying on public donations will also require the masses to be aware of such a cause. While many attempts are being made to create awareness, awareness is mostly limited to the optical community, patients and immediate family and friends. No doubt, it is still a good effort, but would a fresh and more consolidated effort be more effective in educating the wider masses? The fact that avoidable blindness and visual impairment is in fact a solvable problem challenges us to wonder why more is not being done to avoid unnecessary suffering, and suffering that hits hardest at a particular segment; namely lower income, third world countries with limited access and resources, and largely their female populations.
Deanne Berman, Marketing and Communications Director at Seva Canada suggests: “It is important to provide people not just with the statistics but to use individual stories and visuals to help convey the human side of this issue and provide a sense of place.” Indeed, it is crucial to reach out to the wider masses with a central message, a message that touches the heartstrings. In this age of technological influence, we are now more than ever in a position to reach out, engage and empower more like-minded people to make a difference. After all, our eyes are the windows to the soul.