We are proud to introduce this week’s blog post by our guest writer Lucas Taylor, a Calgary journalist and returning volunteer. This year he covered our donor celebration and AGM with the following story:
Operation Eyesight held their Annual General Meeting and Donor Celebration on Monday June 25th, and I had the pleasure of attending.
While not an official member of the organization myself, my fiancé works as a digital communications expert for the charity so they have become quite dear to me.
Despite my familiarity with Operation Eyesight, I learned a great deal at this year’s Annual General Meeting and Donor Celebration, particularly in regards to the truly massive impact they have had in the name of their cause to eliminate avoidable blindness.
The event, sponsored by a number of organizations, including Western Union and Active Accounting Inc. began with and address by Operation Eyesight’s Chair, Ray Mowling.
“It was a great year in 2017,” Mowling said, explaining that over six million people were reached and 218,000 eye surgeries were performed last year.
“Every year we expand our horizons and 2017 was no different,” Mowling said.
Speaking to an audience of all ages and backgrounds, Mowling says the organization has explored new countries to potentially work in, and were invited by five governments to operate in their respective countries.
“Thanks to all of you, Operation Eyesight had a successful 2017, and I can tell you well into 2018 is looking pretty good as well,” Mowling said with a smile.
Later in the program, the audience was treated to a video message from Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who couldn’t make it to the event.
Nenshi said he was very proud of Operation Eyesight for taking Calgary’s values and sharing them with the world.
“Congratulations Operation Eyesight. Congratulations to the board, the staff, the volunteers and particularly the donors,” he said.
Soon after, the formal part of the evening ended and guests were invited to mingle, and meet the staff and board of Operation Eyesight.
Display booths around the room showcased information about each country Operation Eyesight works in. Each was attended by a staff member or volunteer to provide details about all the great work going on, and to answer any questions people had.
The mingling and socializing continued until a group of four people come in, two men and one woman with drums and two other women wearing West African-style dresses. They’re a group called Fote and Friends from Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, and they performed a high energy dance for their audience before they began round two by inviting people from the audience to join in. Some brave audience members joined the dancers on stage and had some fun participating.
Afterwords, Anne Wahome, an Operation Eyesight volunteer from Kenya who lives in Calgary, presented some photos and explained some of the work Operation Eyesight has done in her home nation.
She said she recently came back from a trip home, and explained that Operation Eyesight has volunteers who go door-to-door checking on community eye health. If these volunteers find a patient suffering from an eye health issue, they recommend the family go to a partner medical facility to get the help they need.
“Back home, we believe that as you get older, blindness is a way of life,” Wahome said, “So this method of door-to-door eye examination is very important.”
It not only lets people know that they have a problem, but it’s also a means to let them know that their condition can be much better, and is treatable at no cost, with the help of Operation Eyesight.
At the Huruma Sub-County Hospital, doctors treat people on a rotation throughout the week. They spend some days treating people and other days going out into the villages to educate people further about eye-health.
After Wahome’s presentation, the Operation Eyesight Global Director of Programs, Kashinath Bhoosnurmath gave a presentation on avoidable blindness and how Operation Eyesight is making an impact.
In his presentation he explained that 80 percent of blindness in the world is avoidable, but we’re only reaching 20 percent of the people afflicted.
Through Operation Eyesight’s sustainable model, they not only help increase access to eye health, but they also empower communities to take ownership of their own eye health. Through Operation Eyesight’s work, 640 villages across Africa and South Asia have been declared free of avoidable blindness to date. Their goal is to declare 1000 villages avoidable blindness-free by the end of 2018.
There was another break in the programming, giving the audience some more time to taste the African and Indian themed menu. Delicious curry and flatbread, as well as coffee, tea and a variety of desserts were offered. Guests mingled and actively engaged with the Operation Eyesight team, looking for more information. A lot of people were interested in donating and wanted to know how they could help.
Another group of performers entertained the audience, this time, three women from Madhuban Performing Arts. They performed a fast-paced and fluid semi-traditional Indian dance.
After the performance, Operation Eyesight’s Vice-Chair, John Masters, took the podium for a bitter-sweet moment; a send-off for the retiring Executive Director, Brian Foster.
“Brian restructured Operation Eyesight, making us a sustainable organization that will be here for decades to come,” Masters said.
With a smile, he ended his remarks by saying, “We’ll miss Brian, but like the old saying goes about the Hotel California, ‘you can check out, but you can never leave,’ and we know Brian will never leave us.”
Shortly after, the new Executive Director, Aly Bandali, took the stage.
“I want to thank Brian, who has been a mentor to me for about a decade,” Bandali said. He expressed that he will never be able to repay the gift of Foster’s confidence in him, and said that when Brian had announced his retirement, he suggested that Bandali go for the opening position.
“The shoes you left behind, I will never be able to fill, but it will be fun to try,” Bandali said.
He closed his remarks by saying it will be an honour to work alongside the rest of the Operation Eyesight board and team; but not before making a promise to the room.
“We will eliminate avoidable blindness in this world.”