Today I’d like to tell you about a couple of photographs that mean a lot to me – and why.
I currently serve Operation Eyesight as vice-president of Advancement, but back in 2002, I was volunteering on the Board of Directors. In that year I made my first visit to Africa and India to learn what was happening, and I took a lot of photographs. Two shots really stand out.
One photo shows me with a group of children from Zambia. Whenever I see this one, it reminds me of the contrasts between me and these kids (age, height, colour, nationality, etc.) but also of the things we share in common. When it gets right down to it, we’re not so different. These kids have tremendous energy, enthusiasm and initiative, and their hopes for the future are basically the same as mine.
Although I may never see them again, I am confident that these kids turned into fine young adults. My role in their lives, as a stranger who came to visit, was momentary. But my interest in their lives, and in their country, has only strengthened over the years. Through my colleagues in Zambia I know for a fact that the work of Operation Eyesight is bringing lasting improvements. Yes, I made a contribution to their lives, but meeting them changed my life too.
The same goes for a group of kids from a slum in Mumbai, India. I love this photograph – I have it displayed on the wall of my office.
I was walking down a narrow street with a stream of waste water running down the middle, when three girls appeared on the opposite side. Their faces were beaming, so I reached around to get the camera out of my bag. When I turned back around, three kids had turned into 10, as if out of thin air. The group happily posed for the camera and then they scattered, back through the warren of alleyways and tiny dwellings.
What impressed me was their health and happiness. Aren’t slum people supposed to be wretched? That puzzled me at the time, but now it makes sense – for kids like these, the slum is only their present, it’s not their future. And they know it.
Photographs like these help me remember that when people work together, amazing things can happen. But you don’t have to travel to India or Africa to be a force for change in their lives. Your concern and care can take many forms, such as financial gifts. And through Operation Eyesight they are having the intended effect, which is to build communities that are free of the threat of blindness and low vision.
If you would like to help children like these see a brighter future, the opportunity to make a gift in 2011 is drawing to a close. In order to receive a 2011 tax receipt, please make your donation before December 31 using the convenience of online giving.