Open Your Eyes: Transforming Lives through the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation
In the remote hills of Sankhuwasabha, nestled amidst nature’s beauty, lived a woman named Shanti Maya Tamang. Her fifty years of life had seen its share of challenges, but nothing could have prepared her for the darkness that descended when cataracts clouded her vision. Over the course of a year, Shanti Maya’s world had gradually dimmed until she found herself trapped in the grip of needless blindness.
Cataracts, as the world knows, are the leading cause of needless blindness, affecting a staggering 50% of the world’s 40 million blind individuals. What makes this situation even more disheartening is the fact that 90% of these cataract blind individuals reside in the developing world. For them, life is marred by the tragedy of unnecessary blindness, perpetuated by a combination of factors: lack of financial resources, limited access to medical care, and a woeful lack of awareness about available solutions.
Shining a Light on the Problem
In the shadow of this silent epidemic, the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation emerged with a noble mission: to cure up to 500,000 individuals afflicted by cataracts by the year 2030. Beyond eradicating this widespread issue, their aim was to shine a powerful light on a problem that had, for far too long, languished in the darkness of neglect, especially in the developed world.
Open Your Eyes: Addressing Gender Discrimination within Needless Blindness
On the 7th and 8th of August in 2023, the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation collaborated with the Birgunj Community Eye Centre to organise two screening camps in Parsa District. The numbers that emerged from these camps were as stark as they were concerning. A total of 446 individuals underwent screening, with an astonishing gender disparity; more than 60% of those screened were women.
When inquired why they had not sought out eye care facilities earlier, many of the women cited reasons that spoke to deep-seated gender discrimination. Some admitted to not feeling the need to seek medical help, while others bemoaned the lack of a partner or companion to accompany them to the hospital. These women bore the heavy burden of vision impairment, their lives marked by varying degrees of darkness. Some could barely perceive hand movements, while others could only discern the faintest hint of light. These brave souls had relied on the assistance of family members, like the patient from Parsa, who was guided to the camp by her devoted grandson.
Open Your Eyes: The Relationship Between Poverty and Needless Blindness
The Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation recognises that the cost of cataract surgery remains the single most significant barrier preventing widespread access to this life-transforming procedure, despite its affordability — just USD 50 per eye. Moreover, cataract blindness doesn’t just rob individuals of their vision; it pilfers already meager resources from impoverished families, driving them further into the abyss of poverty.
The Foundation is steadfast in its commitment to break this cycle. Through the power of 50 & 7 — an investment of USD 50 and a seven-minute surgery — they uplift families from the clutches of extreme poverty.
Of the 446 individuals screened in Parsa District on August 7th and 8th, the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation identified 53 people living with needless blindness. These patients were not just identified; they were invited to receive free surgeries. On August 9th, sixteen individuals underwent cataract surgery, emerging from the operating room with restored sight and a newfound freedom from the socio-economic burdens of needless blindness.
With unwavering dedication and collaboration with partners and dedicated teams on the ground, the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation continues to open the eyes of the world to the problem of needless blindness. Their vision extends beyond restoring sight; it encompasses a brighter future where vision is a basic right, not a privilege. In this future, individuals like Shanti Maya will once again see the beauty of the world around them, free from the shackles of unnecessary darkness, living their lives to the fullest.