Blind Walk is one of the award winning projects that focuses on alleviating the plight of the visually impaired, by taking steps to make their lives better. Introduced to Sri Lanka in the year 2016, Blind Walk was conducted with the aim of making people experience the lives of the visually challenged. Another valuable intention of the walk is to raise funds in aid of the visually impaired persons in Sri Lanka while encouraging people to pledge to donate eyes following their demise.
Blind Walk is organized by the the Rotary Club of Colombo Mid Town, along with their sponsoring Rotaract Clubs; Rotaract Club of Colombo Mid Town, Rotaract Club of ACBT, Rotaract Club of University of Colombo Faculty of Management and Finance and Rotaract Club of Achievers Lanka Business School. In 2020, Blind Walk was organized with the theme Hope in Sight, portraying the importance of one’s vision. Although the physical event had to be cancelled due to the unfortunate re-rising of the Covid-19 Pandemic, Blind Walk took a new twist, keeping firm to not forget the beautiful cause it was initiated for.
Blind Walk 2020 took the form of a Talk Show, and was conducted on the 15th of October 2020 adhering to the health care regulations in the country. It was hosted by Rtr. Aaamina Ismail, President of the Rotaract Club of University of Colombo, Faculty of Management and Finance. She was accompanied by two guests; Rtn. PHF Mayur Varia and Rtn. PHF PP Hussain Fazlebas. The Talk Show was conducted through a virtual platform which was featured as Rotaract’s First Online Donation Campaign. The Blind Walk talk show was streamed live on YouTube via Rotaract TV channel.
To start off, Rtn. Mayur enlightened the audience on World Sight Day. He said that it was initiated with the aim of raising awareness about blindness and preventable blindness which is a continuing global issue. World Sight Day which falls on the second Thursday of October each year, is also the reason why Blind Walk is held during this time. He went on to discuss the two concepts of Preventable Blindness and Vision Impairment, and spoke about how Preventable Blindness can be easily cured by using a pair of spectacles or undergoing a cataract surgery. However, many people especially in rural areas, suffer tremendously due to Preventable Blindness due to their lack of knowledge about the cures or not being able to afford them. Therefore, he strongly stressed on the importance of educating the public on this matter and providing them with the support they need.
Rtn. Mayur acknowledged that Sri Lanka pioneered the Corneal Transplantation which is a popular method to give sight to people today. He was proud that Sri Lanka is maintaining high rates of Donors to even provide corneas to foreign countries.
Thereafter Rtn. Hussain spoke about the History of Blind Walk. He said that it was inspired by ‘Project Vision’, originated in 2013in Bangalore by Fr. Dr. George Kanamthnamby. Following that, Blind Walk was initiated with the aim of encouraging people to donate their eyes at death, in order to control the increase of blind people in the World. In 2016, Sri Lanka had been invited to be a part of it by Father George himself, and Rtn. Hussain who was the President of the Rotary Club of Colombo Midtown, had accepted it. With that, Sri Lanka had been a part of Blind Walk 2016 which was simultaneously held in 55 locations spanning five countries.
Furthermore Rtn. Mayur spoke about the short term and long term impacts of not treating preventable blindness. He highlighted that it is not merely the ‘sight’ of a person that blindness takes away, but that it also affects the function of their brain and other parts of the body. He further mentioned that this will be an unnecessary burden on society. He said that this has become a serious issue amongst adults as well as school children, which has hindered them from achieving great heights which they are capable of. Therefore, he said that it is essential that people are given treatment as early as possible.
Next Rtn. Hussain briefed the audience about how Blind Walk had taken place over the past few years. Sighted people were blind folded and made to walk about a kilometer, giving them the feel of the lives of the visually impaired. He spoke about the astonishing reaction of the participants afterwards, as to how people manage their lives without vision as well as how privileged one is to be gifted with it. He mentioned that the walk was usually followed by a musical programme, and in the year 2016, was conducted by children from the Blind School. Blind Walk had taken place in 2017, and after a break in 2018, had come back in 2019 with a remarkable participation of 150 individuals in the walk alone, resulting in over 120 eye pledges. Rtn. Hussain believed Blind Walk has served its purpose over the years, which is to make people understand enough to pledge their eyes.
Rtn. Mayur again spoke about the seriousness of the situation in Sri Lanka, and said that at least 10% of School children are visually challenged. He stressed on the importance of treating preventable blindness at an early age, so that the future of these children are not wasted. He said that something as simple as a pair of spectacles or a cataract surgery may be life changing to some children, and that it may pave the path to many wonders that they have the potential for. Rtn. Mayur ended by saying that we need all the support we can get for this cause.
On an ending note Rtn. Hussain shared the impact Blind Walk has made over the years.He again spoke about how it has inspired more and more eye pledges in the country and that Blind Walk 2019 also collected funds which were directed to visually impaired School Children in Sri Lanka through a programme called ‘Vision 2020’.
Further to that, Fr. Dr. George, founder of ‘Project Vision’ shared a few words on what inspired him to initiate it. He said that the donation of eyes could be one of the best strategies to bring sight to a visually challenged person, and through eye donation about 20% who are visually impaired today can be given sight. He ended with the beautiful words, ‘Let us all commit to allow our eyes to love after our death’.
Followed by this District Rotaract Representative Rtn. Rtr. PP Kasun Sigera joined the talk show and expressed his thoughts of Blind Walk. He praised the Rotary Club of Colombo Mid Town and the organizing Rotaract Clubs for working toward such a phenomenal cause.
By the end of the session Blind Walk 2020 had reached a monetary pledge of LKR 211,000 which will be directed to the visually impaired persons in Sri Lanka. With that, Rtr. Aaamina ended the session with one last reminder for everyone to try to become someone’s Hope in Sight.
Written by: Rtr. Rukaiya Shahabdeen
Edited by: Rtr. Kalani Siriwardena