Avoidable Blindness

President Bhichai Rattakul told Rotarians at the beginning of his term that he is a firm believer in working from bottom up, rather than the top down. He said that Rotarians themselves are in the best position to know what is important to their clubs and communities, adding that in the past, too many new programmes had been introduced at the beginning of each Rotary year. On that note, President Bhichai said he would not implement any new programmes, goals, or quotas, but would urge clubs and Rotarians to focus on those projects and those programmes that are already in place.

It is interesting that the President has decided to retain only one Task Force for his term, viz., the Avoidable Blindness Task Force. The President has also given the Task Force a clear Mission Statement as follows : To distribute information on avoidable blindness and facilitate linkages between those with project needs and those with available resources; to utilize this avenue to support clubs and districts in their efforts to increase membership and achieve the 2002-2003 Presidential Citation and increase membership.

Past President Frank J Devlyn – author of Frank Talk – is Chairman of the Task Force, assisted by Vice Chairman Stephen Brown, seven Area Coordinators, one for each Area, ten Members-at-Large and 34 Zone Coordinators, one for each Zone.

I have the honour and privilege to be the Zone 4 Coordinator. I would be consulting the Governors in the Zone their project needs and I hope to match needs and resources in a coordinated fashion so that more people who need our service could benefit and in a more timely manner.

As a start, I should call your attention to the establishment of a Group Donor Advised Fund (DAF) for Avoidable Blindness under The Rotary Foundation with an initial contribution of US$20,000 from Past President Frank J Devlyn. The fund will be used to support the Foundation and avoidable blindness projects around the world.

The Christian Blind Mission International (CBMI) has committed to match funds donated by the DAF for cataract surgery. Now, each cataract operation costs US$30, but a donation of $300 to the DAF would fund 20 operations because the donation will be matched by the CBMI. It means you can donate US$300 or a little more than HK2,200 to restore the sight of 20 breadwinners and hence change the livelihood of 20 families for the better. Any Rotarian would do that if only he knows or if he is asked. Indeed, most people in Hong Kong would.

Already, Rotarians and non-Rotarians worldwide are asking how they can become part of this movement. Well, anyone interested in supporting projects aimed at preventing avoidable blindness can make direct contributions to the Avoidable Blindness DAF. I should say upfront though that a donation to this DAF will not earn Paul Harris Fellow recognition credits, but I believe this is not fundamental. What is important is that with a modest donation, someone would be making a very valuable gift – the gift of sight.

I would encourage clubs to make a donation in the name of their clubs. A simple form is now available and contributions can be made by check payable to The Rotary Foundation Donor Advised Fund and sent to the Avoidable Blindness Task Force Vice Chair Stephen Brown by post to –

14918 Rancho Nuevo, Del Mar, CA 92014, USA

You can find more information on the Avoidable Blindness Task Force from the RI Website. With the support and assistance of our District Webmaster Bill Benter, we would be having our Avoidable Blindness Website for Zone 4. I hope to encourage discussion and project ideas, and I would be talking to you again on the subject very soon.

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