Youth Forward Scholarship Summer 2018 – The Gift Sight Gift Life Campaign

Name: Nikhil Mathew Sebastian
From: Champaign, Illinois, USA
Grade: 12th Grade/High School Completed (Undergraduate Freshman in Computer Engineering at UIUC)
School: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Votes: 0

The Gift Sight Gift Life Campaign was a project that I carried out with the
support of Rotary International (Rotary Club of Bangalore East) and
YsMen International (YsMen Club of Green Aster) to create awareness
about the protection of our eyes as well as eye donation and raise
funds to provide free cataract surgeries to the economically weaker
sections of the society. In a way, this was a fulfillment of my dream
to utilize technology to liberate the under-privileged.

Rotary already had a project/scheme where every INR 1000 (approx. USD 15)
donated will ensure a 100%-free cataract surgery to one needy person.
This is made possible because of tie-ups with leading eye-hospitals
and the matching-grant that Rotary Foundation provides. This Campaign
was carried out from October 2016 to October 13th 2017
(World Sight Day). The idea was to execute the campaign through
schools and approach all possible donors, with all funds collected
during this period used to fund the aforementioned Rotary project.

I spearheaded the Campaign from its planning to execution and completion. Initially, I
procured flyers, collection-units and literature, like bookmarks,
which provided details of all aspects of the Campaign – developed
free-of-cost after discussions with generous design firms and
printing presses. An exclusive bank account was also set-up to direct
funds straight to Rotary. Using this material, I engaged multiple
schools and institutions to take this Campaign up by announcing its
values on public platforms and collecting donations systematically &
utilizing the material and literature that we provide.

We also approached family and friends to take the cause up in their
neighborhoods/localities, additionally reaching out to high-net-worth
individuals for contributions. Personally, I added to this overall
management by also running stalls in multiple public locations.
Donors could directly (cash) donate, wire-transfer or drop cheques,
while eye-donation forms were filled up on the spot.

This Campaign taught me a lot. While I found it hard to convince
people of the idea behind my vision, this hurdle helped me improve my
own communication skills too. A Campaign of such magnitude also honed
my leadership and management capabilities. Most of all, my faith in
humanity was restored! I learned that a noble cause will garner the
required support no matter what – almost like the Universe was
helping out – and this is a great motivation-booster.

Through the support of various individuals and institutions, the total funds
collected was more than INR 600,000 (approx. USD 9000)! Rotary and
their partners are in the process of utilizing this to help provide
free cataract surgeries to over 600 needy people, bringing light and
a new handle on life to hundreds of families. Further, the Campaign
has reached out to over 9000 students and individuals, signed up over
200 individuals for eye donation, and given away over 11000
souvenirs, flyers and literature. Rotary is also modelling their
future avoidable-blindness activities around my endeavors. All of
this is sure to have a permanent and future effect on my society and
its individuals!

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