The largest eye donation campaign in the world was conducted on October 12, World Sight Day through a novel program called ‘BlindWalk’ organised by Project Vision. BindWalk. It was conducted in 250 locations on the same day spread across five countries, in which 100,000 sighted persons walked blindfolded , led by the visually challenged persons. This was part of the eye donation movement by Project Vision to eliminate corneal blindness from the world, involving hundreds of non governmental and grass root organisations and institutions across U.S, China, Srilanka, Nepal and India.
Union Minister for Tourism Shri K J Alphonse flagged off the BindWalk in Delhi on World Sight Day and called for legalisation to make eye donation mandatory for all. Chief Minister of Kerala Shri Pinarayi Vijayan who led the pledge for eye donation in Trivandrum said that we must develop a culture of eye donation in the society. Chief Minister of Pondicherry Shri Narayana Swami called exhorted everyone to join the eye donation movement, concluding the BlindWalk program there. Several Ministers, religious and cultural leaders, MPs, MLAs, district commissioners and offices led the BlindWalk program in their respective place.
BlindWalk came as a community response to blindness. Government agencies, corporate entities, various health, educational, cultural and social groups and institutions came together to organise the BlindWalk. 104 Arokiavani organised 47 BlindWalks across Tamil Nadu. Rotaract groups in 32 colleges in Chennai got all their members to Walk blindfolded. Madura Microfinance Limited has lined up 65 of their offices and self help groups acrossTamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra, consisting of more than 3000 people to participate in the BlindWalk program. National Service Scheme (NSS) organised a BlindWalk in every one of its 51 College Units across Wynad district of Kerala. Five thousand volunteers of NSS, visited ten families each in a campaign for eye donation after the BlindWalk encouraging them to pledge their eyes, covering 50,000 persons. Thus every type of organisations are part of the BlindWalk program in every place.
National Association for the Blind, Eye Bank Association of India, 104 Arokiavani, Rotaract, National Service Scheme, Catholic Health Association of India, CBCI - CARD and Madura Microfinance Limited were the national partners of organising the BlindWalk who took active role in coordinating the leading the BlindWalk across the country. While The Muthoot Group was the main corporate support, Essilor, CBM, Alcon and a host of local sponsors supported this social cause.
Fr George Kannanthanam, Founder Director of Project Vision proposed to the government of Kerala to have better accessibility to the Eye Banks by starting an Eye Bank in every district. Though India has about 750 Eye Banks, Kerala has only seven. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan promised that the facilities will be expanded as required. Project Vision has coordinated with three hospitals at Kottayam, Thodupuzha and Kalpatta to start Eye Collection Centres so that more eye donations can actually be promoted. Fr George proposed that every hospital having more than 300 beds must function as an Eye Collection Centre.
The most touching aspect of the BlindWalk was that it was led by visually challenged people. While they walked in the front with their white canes, the blindfolded participants held on to them to find their way in their temporary dark world. About 10,000 visually challenged persons led the BlindWalk in various places. National Federation of the Blind was a national partner for this program. There were more than fifty visually challenged persons who led the Blindwalk in Trivandrum, belonging to the Kerala Federation of the Blind. About 500 white canes, 300 talking Watches and various other gifts were provided for their better accessibility and easier movement in different places. The cultural programs by the visually challenged in various places ensured that the day's focus was on them.
The day ended with a happy note two eye collection were reported from Tamil Nadu by the end of the day.