Welcome! World Sight Day seemed like the perfect occasion to officially launch Helen Keller International’s new blog, Seed to Sight. Today is a day of global awareness about how to avoid and treat blindness and visual impairment, and our blog is a means to start a dialogue about our programs and the issues we face in preventing blindness and reducing malnutrition around the world. We will also share perspectives and viewpoints from people in the communities where we work.
World Sight Day is held annually on the second Tuesday of October and is coordinated by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness as part of VISION 2020: The Right to Sight. Helen Keller International is a member of VISION 2020, and our theme this year is “Countdown to 2020.” This theme, evoking perfect vision, is a mandate to evaluate where we are and what needs to be done over the next 10 years to meet our mission of eliminating ALL avoidable blindness by 2020.
Did you know that…?
- 80% of blindness is avoidable.
- 4% of the world’s population (314 million people) is blind or vision impaired.
- Almost 90% of blind people live in low-income countries, where access to eye care is restricted.
We’ve made a lot of progress over the years, and HKI played – and continues to play − a key role in these successes by delivering simple, low-cost solutions to the most common causes of preventable blindness, including cataract, trachoma, refractive error, onchocerciasis and diabetic retinopathy.
I have worn glasses or contacts since I was young, and my vision is bad enough that I can’t really function without them. I’ve visited schools in Gallup, New Mexico and Newark, New Jersey where our ChildSight® program is providing vision screenings and free eyeglasses to kids who are struggling to see the blackboard. Not surprisingly, their grades are suffering. I know what they’re feeling when they put on glasses for the first time and all of sudden there is clarity – they can see each leaf on a tree.
But being blind is different – especially in the developing world. I really can’t imagine it. The first time I saw a video about a cataract patient in China whose eyesight was restored, I cried. It was not only because of the joy on his face, but also because I could sense a restoration of his pride – the recognition that he could now go back to work and contribute to his family again. I don’t pretend to know how he really felt – but I’m really glad to be part of the organization that helped make it happen.
These little miracles occur every day, thanks to my colleagues, Helen Keller International’s incredible staff. I’m not in the field doing the hard work they are; my job, from my comfortable office here in New York, is to tell you these stories in the hope – conviction really – that they will inspire you to learn more about our work. And maybe even make a donation to help.
Right now I have a favor to ask: Will you help us spread the word?
In celebration of World Sight Day, why not tell 10 friends, family and co-workers about our new blog? The more people who know about and support our work, the easier it will be for us to “Countdown to 2020” and live in a world free from preventable blindness.