More than 300 invitees opened their hearts and wallets as speaker after speaker extolled the Sankara Eye Foundation’s ambitious 2030 vision of one million free eye surgeries annually by the year 2030 for the needy in India and eradicate blindness in the country of 1.38 billion people.
To achieve the ambitious goal — almost four times the 230,000 eye surgeries they performed in 2019 before Covid struck — Sankara executives laid out the groundwork, which is to scale up the operations by almost doubling the existing eleven Sankara Eye Hospitals and eleven partner hospitals.
Donations kicked in after Gala Co-Chair Mohan Wanchoo, a techpreneur and philanthropist, made the stunning announcement that he was donating $500,000 to Sankara. When a couple of philanthropic-minded guests promised to match $100,000 each, others chipped in to make it happen.
Dr. RV Ramani, the founder and managing trustee of Sankara Eye Care Institutions, based in Coimbatore, India, addressed the gala through video. The Padma Shri award recipient and general physician emphasized that Sankara’s 2030 vision is to make it sustainable and not remain dependent on donations. That will be achieved by making 20% of paying patients fund 80% of the free surgeries.
Sankara’s operations came to a halt during the two Covid years, but, Dr. Ramani said, through the Payroll Protection Program both at their own hospital and partner hospitals, they ensured that medical and other workers were paid. Some hospitals were also made available for Covid care use.
Speakers included SEF USA Founder/Executive Chairman Murali Krishnamurthy, who emphasized the importance of their mission because one-third of the blind of the world are in India, and blindness is curable. Their plan to eradicate blindness includes going to the villages and helping those in need. He also crooned a few lines from a bhajan that extolls the virtue of helping others and spreading love.
Indeed, emotional appeals were aplenty. “Vision is a gift of God,” it was said, while recounting the ecstatic remarks of one beneficiary who said, after his surgery at Sankara, the first things he saw were peacocks. Moving images of young and old beneficiaries were screened on the massive backdrop interspersing the graphs of projections and pictures representing Sankara’s sprawling operations across India.
Keynote speakers were BV Jagadeesh, the managing partner of KAAJ Ventures, who is a longtime supporter of SEF, and Warren Foust, the worldwide president of Johnson & Johnson Vision – Surgical Vision.
Entertainment was provided by the graceful dancers of Aatma Performing Arts and singing sensation Jeffrey Iqbal.
“Be the Light Gala” was the largest fundraiser to date for Sankara, which aspires to be a Unicorn Social Enterprise as it is already among the largest community eye care providers in India.