Have you ever heard the term “blind charity?” If you’re guessing that’s what Operation Eyesight is about, you’d be mistaken. Of course, our work deals with blindness prevention and treatment, but we don’t expect our donors to give blindly, which is what the term refers to. Our wish is that our donors are fully aware of what they are supporting, and more fully engaged.
Let me explain. Charity, when applied to international issues, often refers to aid or relief in times of crisis. It suggests short-term solutions and limited relationships between the benefactors and the beneficiaries.
Operation Eyesight, on the other hand, has always been a true partnership with eye care professionals in the developing world, working on behalf of people threatened by blindness and low vision. In other words, mutual respect and expertise travels in both directions.
Our partners in India and Africa have identified specific approaches and projects that will put in place an eye care system able to prevent as well as treat blindness for years to come and finally achieve our objective of eliminating unnecessary blindness. We understand this as going “narrower and deeper,” an approach that you can read about in the winter issue of SightLines newsletter (now on our website).
Are these activities going according to plan? Well, in 2012 we’ll be working with expert researchers to evaluate our programs. We want to be sure that our achievements are real, not just perceived, and we’ll want to share those results.
An objective evaluation will help us strengthen our strategy where necessary and confirm our donors’ trust in us to use their money wisely. You’ll also see Operation Eyesight speaking more boldly to the international development community about the powerful impact of community-based eye care.
As president of Operation Eyesight, I have the pleasure of speaking to our donors in many ways. Among my favourites are the informal “donor teas” that we host across the country. Some of you have been with us for many years, and have seen our growing determination to get at the root causes of blindness.
When I’ve described our investment in community programs, infrastructure and primary care, I expected to hear comments like, “Why don’t you just stick with eye surgeries?” Instead, I’ve heard people (including long-term donors) say things like, “What you are saying makes sense. This is the best initiative I’ve ever heard of.” To hear this endorsement was gratifying, and deeply inspirational.
I envision an Operation Eyesight with donors who think about more than individual eye surgeries, and instead look at the big picture. I believe that the eye care programs we support are working over there, and that the ideas behind those programs are resonating over here.
Blindness and poverty is a terrible combination, and we will always deal with individual cases through direct intervention. But the bigger vision is a world where the most common eye problems never have to happen (or if they do, they will never again lead to despair or death). Instead of one surgery or treatment at a time, how about one community at a time – an entire village or district free of avoidable blindness?
I hope you’ll support Operation Eyesight even more strongly in 2012 – with your eyes wide open. Thanks for everything!
Read the blog posts below or our recent newsletters to learn more about our 2011 achievements … all made possible by you, our supporters!