I sauntered as the elevation rose, almost waddling like a duck. My legs were giving way to excruciating pain, but the sight of the peak at the end of the hike gave me the boost to keep going. It was one of those days when I wasn’t carrying food. I underestimated the journey. A few minutes later, I felt a small tap on my shoulder, a hand extending an energy bar came from behind. I couldn’t thank the noble soul enough, who could see through my fatigue and extended an olive branch. Every time you make a donation to Sankara Eye Foundation, you give an energy bar to a visually fatigued person, energizing them to start afresh.

The beginning of this journey was humble with a small clinic in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu in 1977, with the intention to reach out to the rural poor and eradicate curable blindness. Little did they know that the simple start would mushroom into eight super specialty hospitals across India, each working on an 80:20 free to paid patients ratio.

The hospitals gained momentum and begun to see a rise in the influx of patients. Though exceptional services were the hallmark at these hospitals, bigger challenges surfaced in the form of rural outreach. A large part of the population resided in the rural areas and lacked the money and resources to travel to the nearest hospital. In 1990, Sankara launched the Gift of Vision program to tackle the problem. Under this initiative, a team of field workers, doctors, and nurses conducts free eye check-up camps in rural areas. These camps are held in the vicinity to make it accessible, and announcements are made via local vendors to ensure the residents are aware. On diagnosis of a defect, the patients are transferred to the base hospital via Sankara transportation, treated for the defect, provided with food, and other necessities while at the hospital. The most crucial aspect of the program is post-operative follow-up after 30 days. They are also encouraged to give their feedback so that services at these hospitals can be improved.

Gift of Vision started with support from Rotary International, and Rotary Coimbatore Central. The program is now additionally backed by District Blindness Control Society, Sankara Eye Foundation USA and Sight Savers (U.K). Through the program, 21865 camps have been conducted 40,30,745 patients screened.  The statistics speak volumes of the success of the initiative and Sankara’s sincere efforts to reach out to the rural poor. There are various other initiatives like the Rainbow program for children, individual efforts for the tribals of the Nilgiris and a few belts in Gujarat, which have yielded excellent results.

Every year the organization has been in operation, it has added services, initiatives to serve the community better, and is one of the oldest community outreach programs in the world. It has been an incredible journey from 8000 surgeries to 1.5 million operations; from one small clinic to eight super specialty eye hospitals. The vision is far from accomplishment but Sankara Eye Foundation, USA has been the catalyst to SEF, India’s movement.

SEF, USA born in 1998, has provided the manure needed to reach out to the rural poor and root out curable blindness. As a Non-Profit, they have grown exponentially, been recognized by the Charity Navigator for its transparency, financial efficiency and work ethic, and all this while they remain a largely volunteer run organization. In 18 years of existence, the team has helped raise funds for building hospitals, conducting eye camps and performing surgeries, along with supporting the hospital until its self-sufficient. The most recent capital projects are two upcoming hospitals in Hyderabad and Indore. At the recently concluded banquet, patrons donated $300k, and a full house was in attendance to show their support. This journey will continue until eradication of curable blindness from India.

Join the movement, and give someone the gift of vision. Click here to find out how you can contribute.