Giving Sight to the Blind: How the Tej Kohli Foundation is Doing It

As a child you probably played Marco Polo, or put a blindfold on ane tried to make your way around a familiar room. You wanted to experience what it would be like to be blind. Unlike you, however, more than 45 million people in the world can’t remove the blindfold when they get tired of not being able to see.

Of that great number of blind people, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 15 million of them live in India. That means one-third of all blind people on the planet live in India. The most common cause for blindness in this area is due to disease and damage to the cornea. In fact more than 4.5 million of those 15 million cases of blindness in India are corneal related.

Tackling the Problem Head-On

In order to begin addressing the issue of blindness in India, 100,000 people need to be treated each year. In previous years they have only been able to help some 10,000 people, meaning that most will remain blind the rest of their lives. And a sadder statistic still comes from, WHO which has reported that of the 4.5 suffering with cornea blindness in India, 90 percent are younger than 45 years old, and 60 percent are 12 years old or younger.

The cornea is composed of a dome-shaped, clear tissue that covers the surface of the eye. It allows the eye to focus. Before light can enter a person’s eye, it must first pass through the cornea, which means for a person to see the cornea must remain clear. Disease and trauma damage the cornea causing it to cloud over, first restricting the vision of a person and eventually causing complete blindness.

Providing Early Care and Corneal Transplants

For that 60 percent, or 2.7 million children in India, the most common cause of blindness is bacterial, fungal or viral infections. These infections occur when a child is malnourished, or has a congenital disease or is simply suffers an eye injury. And the majority of these cases of corneal blindness could be prevented, but it is crucial that early care is made available. Should the cornea be damaged to the point that it no longer works efficiently, the child will require a corneal transplant if they ever hope to see again. But with a demonstrated success rate greater than 90 percent, it is truly in the range of possibility.

The operation to replace an opaque or damaged cornea with a clear and healthy one obtained from a human donor is an extremely delicate one. However, anyone, regardless of their age, can give this gift to those in need by simply pledging to donate their corneas when they die. Two people will benefit from this donation, as a single cornea is given to each recipient upon donation. The identity of the recipient donor is always kept confidential.

Making the Right Interventions at the Right Time

This is where Tej Kohli Foundation comes in. Its founder, international businessman Tej Kohli is a philanthropist focused on treating curable blindness in India. As Mr. Kohli, KT to his friends and business associates, has stated, “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 extraordinary business career, Tej Kohli has aggressively sought and implemented ambitious solutions to what seemed like impossible problems faced by business leaders across the globe. He has now taken those skills from the business world and coupled with his compassion for the staggering number of people living with corneal blindness in his homeland, and along with his considerable financial resources he is seeking to eradicate blindness in India. An impossible mission? He doesn’t think so. Mr. Kohli looks at it this way, “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."

Kohli's attitude and commitment are made evident by his actions and his words. He expresses it this way, "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."

Giving Monetary Grants to High-Need Regions

Kohli has backed up his promises in action through his Tej Kohli foundation. They provide monetary grants to Niramaya, a Gurgaon based NGO, in an effort to offset the cost of corneal transplants. But the grants don’t go exclusively to Gurgaeon; additional grants are received by every additional city in India to which his blindness intervention program expands. Due in great measure to Tej Kohli’s innovative humanitarian outreach program, Indian health experts predict that tens of thousands of visually impaired and blind children and adults in India will regain their sight.

The Foundation further supports their founder in the following note, “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.“

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