John Keells continues to empower the nation through its vision project

Saturday, 12 October 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

“Our living conditions in the past have not been easy. We have had various difficulties due to major problems like the war and lesser problems like the harsh conditions we live in. Access to health care has never been easy for us. In the past, even getting our eyes tested meant a lot of travel and difficulty. I am grateful that your organisation (John Keells Foundation) has facilitated such a service to us,” said 64-year old Parameswari, a resident of Delft Island, Jaffna, who participated at the Eye Camp conducted by John Keells Foundation in Delft on 21 and 22 June 2013 in collaboration with Sri Lanka Navy and Vision 2020 of the Ministry of Health. Parameswari was one of 110 patients who were diagnosed to suffer from vision impairment due to cataract and was subsequently operated at the Jaffna Base Hospital. Parameswari’s story is topical for World Sight Day which is commemorated on 10 October 2013 and is aimed at focusing global attention on blindness, vision impairment and rehabilitation of visually impaired people. Under the broad theme ‘Universal Eye Health’, the call to action for the year 2013 is ‘Get your eyes tested’, According to the College of Ophthalmologists Sri Lanka, in developing countries, cataracts occur early in life and are more prevalent. Poor nutrition, infectious diseases and exposure to ultraviolet radiation are all possible explanations. The prevalence of cataract among elderly in developing nations is almost 50%. By the year 2025, it is estimated that 40 million people in the world will be blind from cataract. Blindness due to cataract is correctable through a simple surgery. In addition to the restoration of sight, there is an enhancement of the quality of life. The John Keells Vision Project is aimed at eradicating preventable blindness arising through cataract in Sri Lanka. The project has enabled disadvantaged individuals in various parts of the country regain their sight, and thereby their social and economic independence through the conduct of eye camps and sponsorship of cataract surgeries. Since its launch in 2004, the project has to date succeeded in completing 5,657 surgeries whilst also donating 3,507 spectacles. During the period April to September 2013 alone, the project has conducted eye camps in Delft, Baddegama, Matugama and New Panawenna resulting in a total of 1,075 persons being tested and 242 being identified with cataract of whom 209 have already been operated. The John Keells Vision Project is managed and administered by John Keells Foundation (JKF) – the CSR arm of John Keells Group. The project is partnered by Vision 2020 Secretariat of the Ministry of Health and Lions Gift of Sight Hospital in Panadura. JKF also collaborates with other like-minded organisations such as So Others May See Inc, and also sponsors eye camps organised by selected independent third parties. The continued collaboration with the Vision 2020 Secretariat of the Ministry of Health is noteworthy in enabling access to areas previously rendered inaccessible due to the prolonged conflict, extending eye care to a large number of people in need. Two such significant instances in 2013 were the successful completion of 107 cataract surgeries in Mullaitivu and 110 cataract surgeries in Delft. Another significant milestone for 2013 was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Vision 2020 Secretariat of the Ministry of Health. JKF is supported by Group companies on location as well as staff volunteers from within the Group who eagerly come forward to contribute their services at eye camps, irrespective of their location and timing. The commitment and enthusiasm of many such volunteers over the years have contributed largely to the success of the Vision Project. “Volunteering at the John Keells Foundation’s eye camps has been one of the most enriching and gratifying experiences of my life,” said John Keells volunteer Mayuran Mahendran. “I have been given the opportunity to serve many deserving individuals through this project, as well as the chance to meet colleagues who are committed to the same social cause. I will continue to contribute towards the commendable work done through John Keells Foundation.”