Have you ever closed your eyes tightly and imagined you are blind? Can you even envision what it would feel like to never see the colors of the rainbow or the smile on your loved one’s face? Such is the grim reality for more than 45 million blind patients around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that of this number, more than 15 million blind people reside in India.
Cornea related disease and damage to the eye are the most common causes of blindness around the world, accounting for more than 4.5 million cases of blindness in India alone. WHO reports that within the 4.5 case of cornea blindness in India, 90 percent of patients are less than 45 years of age with 60 percent being young children under the age of 12 years.
The battle to banish blindness in India is being waged on several fronts. Over the past 45 years, Sightsavers, an organization dedicated to bringing hope to visually impaired persons around the world, has treated more than 51 million persons in India with eye problems and supported more than 4.7 million sight-restoring operations. The ORBIS Foundation, an international humanitarian relief organization notes, “Twenty percent of the world’s blind children live in India. About 320,000 children under age 16 are blind or visually impaired. ORBIS is almost midway toward developing 50 fully equipped and properly staffed pediatric eye care centers in India. ORBIS is also addressing corneal disease and diabetic retinopathy in India.”
Billionaire entrepreneur Tej Kohli, visionary philanthropist and founder of the Tej Kohli Foundation, which primarily focuses on treating curable blindness in India, states, “It’s a huge problem, but an entirely fixable one with the right interventions. Our active approach to philanthropy sees us working alongside experts on the ground to make sure as many people as possible can benefit from free health checks, glasses, treatments and surgery where necessary. We believe the benefits of restoring sight go farther than the treated individual: their family, their community and society as a whole benefits – and that’s where we see return on the investment.”
Throughout his stellar business career, Tej Kohli, affectionately known as TK to his family, friends and business associates, has aggressively implemented ambitious solutions to seemingly insolvable problems faced by business leaders worldwide. A compassionate awareness of the staggering number of cases of corneal blindness in India prompted Mr. Kohli to direct his problem solving abilities and financial resources to the task of eradicating blindness in his native homeland. Mr. Kohli stated, “If we raise awareness of the need for corneal donors we can overcome this tragedy and help make a big difference in the rest of these child’s lives.”
The dark plight of India’s blind children is typically the result of malnutrition, the effect of fungal, bacterial or viral infections, caused by congenital disease or the result of eye trauma. Sadly, the majority of these cases of corneal blindness are preventable: early care is crucial. If the cornea has become too damaged to function properly, corneal transplants are a hopeful option. Corneal transplant surgery, with a demonstrated success rate of greater than 90 percent, is a delicate operation to replace opaque corneas with a clear cornea obtained from a human donor. That’s where the Tej Kohli Foundation has made such an impressive impact.
Tje Kohli states, “One of the aims of the Tej Kohli Foundation, and something I hold very dear, is to nurture the age-old traditions of charity, and social help. I want every person with whom I come into contact, whether they are students at the Foundation or senior executives in my businesses, to understand the purpose and position of philanthropy and social responsibility in the 21st century. Success should not be achieved – or celebrated – in isolation.”
Since 2010, the Tej Kohli Foundation has provided monthly grants to cover the cost of corneal transplants carried out by Niramaya, a Gurgaon based NGO. These generous grants provide not only for Gurgaon; they entail additional grants for each additional city in India in which the blindness intervention program expands. Indian health experts anticipate that by the end of 2013 the innovative humanitarian outreach will grant the gift of sight to tens of thousands of visually impaired persons.
The Tej Kohli Foundation notes, “Kohli is an international businessman and philanthropist, with a diverse portfolio of commercial and charitable operations in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and India. His business interests range from e-commerce and IT, to real estate and reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. The programs of Kohli foundation are comprised of passionate people committed to addressing the critical needs of young people in India, Costa Rica and beyond. By inspiring communities, states and nations, by motivating individuals and institutions, by supporting local leaders with programs and facilities at community level, we will make a difference in the lives of millions of children.”