U.S. Adventist university initiative is providing new vision and hope.
Twelve million people in India cannot read this sentence because they have been blinded by cataract disease. Is there a solution? Yes, according to coordinators of a U.S.-based ministry.
The Now Eye See project was formed in 2017 on the campus of Southern Adventist University (SAU) in Collegedale, Tennessee, United States. Now Eye See is a social-entrepreneurial project run through SAU’s chapter of Enactus, an organization that aims to inspire innovation in local and global communities through Christ-centered service.
Now Eye See has partnered with Jacob Prabhakar, an Adventist ophthalmologist in Punjab, India, to aid cataract-affected patients. Prabhakar restores eyesight to more 10,000 people per year. But he has not stopped there. Through careful planning and coordination with his medical team, he has also shortened the length of time the procedure takes from 30 minutes down to a mere 90 seconds.
Each cataract procedure costs approximately US$75, which includes the cost of surgery, new replacement lenses, food, disposable medical supplies, and transportation to and from the surgery location. After getting cataract surgery, patients can contribute more to their communities, pursue employment, and ensure a better quality of life for themselves and their loved ones.
The Now Eye See 2019 team at Southern Adventist University, showing off their student-designed merchandise in February 2019. Student merchandise sales have raised approximately US$7,500 since the Now Eye See project began. [Photo: Darryl Magno]
The Ruby Nelson Memorial Hospital health team ready to distribute essential food items to the surrounding community in Jalandhar, Punjab, India, in March 2020. [Photo: Jacob Prabhakar]
In the spirit of entrepreneurship, Now Eye See has collaborated with student artists from SAU to design t-shirts and hoodies, with the profits going toward Now Eye See’s goals. In 2018, Now Eye See raised US$6,000 through the sale of merchandise and donations. This money enabled Prabhakar to restore sight to approximately 10,000 people in India.
In 2019, Now Eye See partnered with Adventist World Radio to distribute “Godpods” to recovering cataract patients at Ruby Nelson Memorial Hospital, where Prabhakar serves. Godpods are personal listening devices equipped with spiritual literature, including the Bible and other evangelistic material.
Now Eye See has collaborated with the SAU School of Business, local doctors, and Prabhakar to write a script full of relevant cataract prevention and hygiene information to be recorded and placed on the Godpods. Now Eye See hopes to continue to enhance preventative care measures at Ruby Nelson Memorial Hospital in the future.
Recently, Now Eye See has faced a tremendous roadblock: the COVID-19 pandemic. India was put under lockdown, and Prabhakar was forced to close the hospital, making it difficult for him to pay the staff. In addition, Prabhakar knew that the large migrant community around his hospital would suffer from the lockdown and that it would be more challenging to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) for the hospital.
“When Now Eye See heard about this problem, they immediately decided to give Prabhakar the $2,500 they had raised during the school year from merchandise sales to help with his current situation,” the initiative coordinators said. “Prabhakar used those funds to distribute essential food items such as rice, wheat, salt, spices, onions, tomatoes, and potatoes, as well as hand sanitizers and soap. These essential items were given to migrant workers who were stranded in the city with no food or shelter due to the lockdown,” they explained.
In addition, Now Eye See coordinators shared that Prabhakar was able to use these funds to purchase PPE for his medical staff who were still on duty, and to pay part of the staff salaries.
It’s all related to the ministry’s mission, coordinators said.
“Our mission works to enable our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to see the beauty that God created, such as looking at the warm smile on the face of a loved one or at the vibrant colors of a sunset, which ties back to our overall Enactus mission of meeting the needs of our global community through Christ-centered service,” they said. “Next year, we are excited to continue with our goal of aiding and reducing the number of cataract-affected patients in India.”