”Those who have their vision restored, or who can now see for the first time, may never know of Mr. Jubbal, this fundraising dinner, or even Canada itself. They simply rejoice in being able to see their loved ones and the world around them. You can, however, take great pride in imagining what your support means to them.” – Jean Chretien, Prime Minister of Canada (1993-2003)
AT first, when one enters a room, it is dark. In order to see nature’s beauty, one must turn on the lights. The eyes are irreplaceable and damage to them is permanent. Creating an organization whose mission is to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate is a remarkable feat that very few people are able achieve. In 1989, Anup Jubbal set upon one such path of discovery, seeking to provide eye care for those unable to afford it. The result of his journey is Canadian Eyesight Global, an organization which has helped thousands of people in villages throughout India for a quarter of a century. The opportunities Canadian Eyesight Global provides for impoverished citizens in India are life-altering; the power of sight is the most desired aspect of the human experience, and without eyesight, it is impossible to give light to the world. This philosophy became the driving force behind Canadian Eyesight Global – the epitome of a new outlook.
Jubbal, who grew up in Lucknow, India, witnessed the rampant poverty there from a young age. Since then, he has sought to help countless individuals, including children, who are unable to afford primary eye care. He first approached his local Rotary Club at Burnaby-Hastings with the idea of Project Eyesight India in 1989. They quickly offered their support, and six Rotarians even joined Jubbal on a visit to India to experience the initiative firsthand. Many of the members were in for a dose of culture shock, traveling from a veritable paradise to rural India. Their efforts were noted by people in high places, and while working in New Delhi, then-Deputy High Commissioner of Canada Gary Smith and Paul Durrant, then-First Commercial Secretary of CIDA, visited their operations.
In 1992, four new clubs were developed in Akhnoor, Udhampur, Sultanpur Ludhi, and Jalandhar South, in which the majority of members were women. During the development of these new clubs Rotary Burnaby-Hastings, with the support of Rotary International and CRCID/CIDA, generously donated $90,000 for 15,000 operations. To increase awareness of the project, a fundraising dinner was held at Bear Creek Community Centre on November 28, 1992.
By 1993, Mr. Jubbal had gathered a great deal of support, and was recognized by Rotary International with the Service Aboveself Award, the highest award provided to a Rotarian by the International Service Organization in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Jubbal was British Columbia’s first Rotarian recipient of this award. In 1993 there were thousands of operations performed in India sponsored by the Rotary Club of Burnaby-Hastings and R.I. District 5040.
In 1994, Jubbal traveled to India to ensure that Project Eyesight India was running smoothly. In 1995, a team consisting of Dr. and Mrs. Irwin Stewart, Past Rotary District Governor (93-94) R.I.Dist.5040 and Dr. Lionel Fishman, Past President, Rotary Club of Burnaby-Hastings, journeyed to India to visit the eye camps for themselves. A major supporter of this project was Rotary District 5040 that provided $7.50 for each $20 cataract surgery conducted in remote areas in India. Rtn. Wilfrid Wilkinson, the Past Chairman of CRCID/CIDA and Past President of Rotary International, visited the eye camp at Neral Village near Bombay in February 1996 and was impressed by what he saw.
THE year 1996 proved pivotal in the continuous success of Project Eyesight India. Rotarians across Canada and India gathered behind the program and ensured that 31,500 cataract surgeries were administered. There were over 6,000 operations conducted in 1996 alone. In addition to providing treatment for patients, 12,000 preventative consultations were provided to nip any imminent problems in the bud.
This success and initiative did not go unnoticed. Both the Government of Canada and Rotary International recognized the importance of Project Eyesight India and its contribution to society. On September 12, 1997, the Governor General of Canada, Romeo LeBlanc, awarded Jubbal the Queen’s Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) in Quebec City. A year later, the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce in Toronto conferred a Hall of Fame 1998 Humanitarian Award to Jubbal, sponsored by Royal Bank Financial Group, and presented by Paul Martin.
Jubbal was Rotary Club Burnaby-Hastings President in 1997. Rotary Club of Burnaby-Hastings, with support from Rotary International, donated $25,000 to conduct cataract surgeries. CRCID/ CIDA matched this donation, for a total of $50,000 that year.
To celebrate and acknowledge the hardworking individuals who made Project Eyesight India possible, there was a Fundraising Dinner and Entertainment Night held on March 1, 1998, at Riverside Banquet Hall in Richmond, B.C. Other gala dinner events were also organized at the Pearson Convention Centre in Mississauga and the Chandni Banquet Hall in Brampton, Ontario.
The first 10 years of Project Eyesight India were crucial in the project’s development, garnering support from Rotarians and larger communities within Canada and India. In 2001, Jubbal was once again elected as President of the Rotary Club of Burnaby-Hastings, helping to bring an even greater awareness of Project Eyesight India to the community.
In 2003, Canadian Eyesight International was registered as a charitable organization. It soon evolved into Canadian Eyesight Global, and the birth of an even more involved, progressive organization was made possible by a dedicated team of numerous surgeons, doctors, and business leaders. A collective of eager volunteers joined them, all of whom sought to make a difference on an even grander scale. Rotary and the larger community soon became the organization’s backbone.
With the philosophy “help those who help you first” in mind, free eye health clinics were then held in the Greater Vancouver area and Toronto. The first eye care camp was held at Khalsa Diwan Society Gurudwara Sahib in 2004, and was well received by the public. Three hundred and six people attended to have their eyes checked and were provided with appropriate medications by local ophthalmologists and optometrists. There was a total of three eye care camps held that year, two in Greater Vancouver, and one in Mississauga, Ontario. Since 2004, there have been quarterly eye screenings conducted for the general public. A fundraiser was held at the Mirage Banquet Hall that same year. The positive responses to each of these eye care camps and dinners continued to provide the support for the movement in both Canada and India. The impact of this project on the Canadian and Indian communities was later shared with other Rotarians when Jubbal attended the 2009 International Rotary Convention held in Birmingham, England.
AFTER 25 years of tireless service in Canada and India, Jubbal found that in order to help people help themselves, he must first be able to reach those people. This idea was supported by Rotary Club of Surrey-Guildford that donated an air-conditioned ambulance van designed to travel to the villages in Amritsar and Tarn-Taran once a week. This ambulance has maintained its set schedule of four trips a month to each of the villages since 2010. There have been free eye screening camps conducted in several states of India including Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Gujarat.
Canadian Eyesight Global has organized thousands of free cataract surgeries, and countless individuals have been treated for avoidable blindness in rural parts of India since 1989 with over 250 Rotary Clubs, dedicated volunteers, local hospitals and para-medical staff members rallying collectively to ensure the success of this noble endeavour.
A society named Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Mata Sulakhani Eye Hospital was registered in Amritsar, Punjab, to support the activities of the impressive development of the Canadian Eyesight Global Project enabled Jubbal to attend and participate in the International Rotary Convention in 2010 in Montreal, Canada, further spreading the organization’s mission of hope and assistance.
Canadian Eyesight Global’s message reached several other Rotary International Conventions, including the Rotary International Conventions in New Orleans, USA (2011), Bangkok, Thailand (2012), and Lisbon, Portugal (2013). Twenty-five to thirty thousand Rotarians attended each of these conventions. Booths dedicated to the cause were erected at the conferences free of charge, offered by Rotary International. The Rotary Club of Surrey-Guildford sponsored Canadian Eyesight Global, organizing booths at five different Rotary International Conventions.
THE year 2014 marks 25 years of making a difference in the lives of rural Indians whose eyesight has been saved through Canadian Eyesight Global’s (formerly Project Eyesight-India) efforts. Ensuring that individuals are able to truly appreciate the beauty of the world around them has been the prime goal of Canadian Eyesight Global from day one. Over 100,000 people have been given a second chance to live their lives without relying on family or friends to ‘see’ for them. Canadian Eyesight Global specializes in restoring potential to those who are unable to afford basic eye care, ensuring impoverished individuals are able to wake in the morning and see their spouses, children, family, and friends.
Canadian Eyesight Global has had an impact not only on those treated, but upon those who volunteer. The ability to provide a life-changing service for someone in need is undeniably fulfilling, and a small step goes an extremely long way. Children like Gurpreet, a boy who was born blind in 2009 with cataracts in both eyes, are forever changed by the efforts of Canadian Eyesight Global. The seven-month-old in Amritsar, whose father brought him to an eye camp, received two operations at the Nirmaljot Eye Hospital, and is now able to peer into the faces of the family members who so dearly love him. Wouldn’t you love to make such an immeasurable difference in the life of another?
What’s next? Canadian Eyesight Global would like to build a Primary Care Eye Hospital facility near Amritsar, India. If you are a Non-Resident Indian (NRI) and would like to help, please call us. If you have land or a building near Amritsar for the establishment of the hospital or would like to sponsor an eye camp or to make a small donation, please contact Anup S. Jubbal, Canadian Eyesight Global, at 604-582-0579 or go to [email protected]
– BY TANVEER SOHAL, MPH