World Sight Day: Levelling with you about avoidable blindness
Today on World Sight Day, more than any other day, I find myself thinking about how precious sight can be. Right now, 39 million people in the world are blind and unbelievably 80 per cent of this is preventable.
At eight years old, most children love nothing better than running around playing with their friends. Innocent and carefree, life is about having fun and learning new things.
But this wasn’t the case for Kajol. When I met him in Bangladesh you could see he was a lovely child but very reserved and withdrawn. He had bilateral cataract – making him blind. He was unable to play with his peers and attend school, and so had been excluded from his friendship group, damaging his confidence.
Kajol had been born with good sight and had been able to do everything on his own. But at around age seven, his mother noticed that he started to take more time finding things, and his teacher observed he had difficulty reading books and seeing the backboard from a distance. Through a screening organised by a Sightsavers’ partner, Kajol was identified as having bilateral cataract and he was sent for sight-restoring surgery.
I met Kajol the day before his operation in a hospital in the capital Dhaka. It was clear that the visual impairment had taken its toll on Kajol and his family. And yet everything was about to change. The treatment for a cataract is in fact relatively straightforward, with surgery taking as little as 20 minutes. The next day, Kajol’s bandages were removed and he was already able to see a lot more clearly.
I visited Kajol back at home in his village and saw how his life had been completely transformed. Friends joined him to play, and he already seemed much more confident. It was so rewarding to see the immediate difference the operation had made.
Ninety per cent of people who are avoidably blind live in the developing world, where it can be hard enough to support yourself and your family without sight loss, have to suffer with it. Yet saving someone’s sight is inexpensive. It can cost Sightsavers as little as £28 to give an adult sight-restoring surgery or £50 for a child like Kajol.
Meeting Kajol confirmed to me that the work we do is life changing – not just for the individual but for their families and communities too. As a parent myself, this really struck home. My daughter has a double squint (strabismus) and here in the UK, it’s been straightforward to get NHS treatment to correct all her sight problems.
But for someone like Kajol, living in one of the poorest communities, without our help it’s totally unachievable. Witnessing Kajol’s transformation into a confident, happy child, able to fulfil his life’s potential is every parent’s dream.
This World Sight Day, Sightsavers has teamed up with actor and writer James Corden and photographer and director Rankin to take a fresh approach to talking about our work, and so we decided to use comedy to raise awareness of a serious issue. Our new film, The Feel Bad Four starring Corden takes a tongue-in-cheek look at how or how not to ‘do’ a charity advert.
In the film, James Corden plays the comedic role of a well-meaning (but slightly misguided) celebrity whose attempts to encourage donations from viewers are rejected by an off-camera ‘Sightsavers’ representative. As Corden says in the film, in the end it makes most sense to “level with” the audience and be honest with the viewer about the difference that a small amount of money can make to someone who is blind in the developing world.
We hope that taking an honest and human approach would help us raise awareness of the scale of the problem, and much-needed funds, to enable Sightsavers to help those in the poorest parts of the world by preventing and curing blindness.
To watch and share James Corden’s charity advert visit www.sightsavers.org/feelbadfour
For more information about Sightsavers visit www.sightsavers.org
Tagged in: blindness, James Corden, Rankin, sight, sightsavers, World Sight Day
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