Banishing Blindness at $25 Per Person

  • Overseas
  • 1994

Dr. Sanduk Ruit grew up in a remote village of Nepal that was 15 days walking distance from the nearest school.  But after watching his sister died of tuberculosis he resolved to get an education and become a doctor—so he could reduce suffering from illness in his rural Himalayan homeland where medical care is scant. He became an eye surgeon, and developed a technique for conducting high-quality cataract surgeries quickly and at low cost, even in the most remote places. American opthalmologist Geoffrey Tabin started collaborating with Ruit, and in 1994 they established an American 501c3 called the Himalayan Cataract Project to raise funds, buy equipment, and organize donations of other surgeons’ time so that individuals coping with blindness in poor countries could have their sight restored in same-day operations. Hundreds of thousands of persons have experienced life-altering restoration of their sight since then, thanks to this small nonprofit.

In 2015, the Himalayan Cataract Project raised $7 million in cash and in-kind donations. Supporters ranged from the Conrad Hilton Foundation and Chicago’s Nancy Allison Perkins Foundation (each providing grants of a half-million dollars or more), to many hundreds of small donors from all across the U.S. With those contributions, the group performed more than 83,000 sight-restoring surgeries that year in seven extremely low-income countries. It also trained 79 local health professionals in its techniques, and donated equipment to them, so that they will be able to continue to repair cataracts in the future. The organization is also starting to take on other sources of blindness in the less-developed world.

So far, this charity has carried out more than 600,000 sight-restoring surgeries, many of them in places with no clean water or electricity. It is able to complete these in about ten minutes, at a cash cost of about $25 per surgery.