One of the great gifts that mankind has is the gift of sight. While most of us can see, not everyone has a vision. And many of those who cannot see, have a vision. We are talking about the visually challenged population of India – the ones for whom the world is dark, yet there is a small candle of hope burning at the end of the tunnel.
There are two definitions of blindness, one by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and another by the National Programme for Control Of Blindness (NPCB) in India.
WHO defines blindness as visual sharpness of less than 3/60, or a corresponding visual field loss to less than 10 degrees in the better eye, even after possible spectacle correction. Whereas the NPCB in India, on the other hand, defines blindness as vision of 6/60 or less and a visual field loss of 20 degrees or less in the better eye, after spectacle correction.
There are over 37 million blind people in the world, out of which over 15 million are from India, according to an article in TOI. India needs over 2.50 lakh eyes every year, but only 25,000 eyes are donated to the 109 eye banks in the country. Also, approximately 75% of the cases of blindness can be tackled at an early stage and prevented. But that does not happen as India also has a shortage of optometrists.
In the middle of all these dark statistics, there is one organisation, all run by the youth, that aims at bringing light in the lives of the visually challenged. Team Vision is a combined effort of few young hearts.
Recently, Team Vision received the ‘Navratna Award’ from the grandson of Baba Amte, Mr. Kausthubh Amte.
Sandesh Bhingarde (24), Founder & President of Team Vision, talks about their efforts with Cocktail Zindagi in an interview.
Cocktail Zindagi: What does Team Vision do?
Sandesh Bhingarde: Team Vision is a organization which supports visually challenged students by providing readers and writers for their exam. We have arranged more than 3000 writers and readers around Maharashtra and have also reached Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Haryana and Ahmedabad.
Apart from it we conduct ‘Personality Development Programme’ where we teach the visually challenged students English, grammar, basic maths & general knowledge. We have initiated ‘Audio Library’ and opened the windows of knowledge for those who are willing to learn.
We not only help them in education but also assist in building up their confidence by taking them for trekking. So far we have conducted six treks and various counselling sessions.
Our ‘Eye Donation Awareness & Registration Campaign’ is active throughout the year.
Cocktail Zindagi : How did the idea to start such an initiative come to your minds?
Sandesh Bhingarde: During my college days I met a visually challenged girl Pradnya and wrote her exams. She asked me if I can read for her competitive exams preparations. I agreed and over the period of time I realised that there are many students who require readers & writers. Many miss their exams just because of unavailability of writers! Imagine what would be their condition!
I used to call my friends. But there were situations when one writer use to write for 3 students at a time. This made us think over this issue and we decided to start campaigning. We visited many colleges of Mumbai, met many people to create awareness and a database of volunteers.
Cocktail Zindagi: How many people are behind the initiative?
Sandesh Bhingarde : Initially I discussed with Pradnya, Rutuja & Siddhi and we all decided to work together for the cause. Later on a few others joined the bandwagon and helped us promote the cause.
Cocktail Zindagi: Tell us a little about each person.
Sandesh Bhingarde: Pradnya (32), being visually challenged is a sports woman, national level swimmer, javelin throw gold medalist, master in rope mallakhamb & jaldipasan and is successfully working with Bank of Baroda. She also looks after visually challenged students’ Personality Development Programme.
Rutuja (22), is pursuing specialisation in German language and has initiated an English speaking course for VCs. She also leads the treks of Team Vision & takes up responsibility of every extra curricular activity of Team Vision
Pavithra (24), who joined us later, is a working professional and takes care of our accounts. She has also initiated Ganpati & Navratri events with the VCs.
Abhay (25), who is our current team mate and a visually challenged student is doing a masters in history and is the most active co-ordinator of Team Vision. He is the one who initiated audio-library and is looking after it.
Mrunali (23), is pursuing CS and is the co-ordinator of Team Vision. She also teaches dance to the visually challenged students since the last 4 years. She handles all the administrative work and is in-charge of the eye donation awareness and registration campaign.
Cocktail Zindagi : What is your organisation’s mission and vision?
Sandesh Bhingarde : Our aim is to strengthen the visually challenged students. We like to think of ‘Team Vision’ as a bridge between their dreams and them. Our motive is to tackle all the hurdles by walking with them.
Cocktail Zindagi : Since how many years are you involved in this cause?
Sandesh Bhingarde : It has been more than 4 years now. We initiated in July 2013.
Cocktail Zindagi : Is it difficult to get writers for special kids? Do people come forward to help?
Sandesh Bhingarde : Yes, people do come. But there is a need to create awareness to reach the masses. Also there is some criteria set by the the universities and other exam holders which makes it quite difficult to find appropriate writers.
Cocktail Zindagi : What is your biggest challenge?
Sandesh Bhingarde : Our biggest challenge is to change the mindset of the visually challenged students and to make them look at themselves in a better way. And also the mindset of other people. We do not call them impaired or disabled, we just called them challenged because we want them to accept this challenge and overcome it.
Cocktail Zindagi : Tell us a little about your upcoming event ‘Lantern 2018’.
Sandesh Bhingarde : The Lantern is a platform where our visually challenged students show their talents – be it music, dance, drama, presentation, debate, quiz, poetry recitation, etc. Also the event encourages volunteers by appreciating their efforts.
It is a 4-day mega socio-cultural event that begins from 30th December, 2017. The second, third and fourth event day would be on 6th, 7th and 13th January, 2018. We also have a closing ceremony on 21st January, 2018.
Cocktail Zindagi : How many visually challenged people have you helped so far? In what way?
Sandesh Bhingarde : More than 500 visually challenged students from all over India have been helped by Team Vision by providing readers, writers, audio recordings, english teaching courses, counseling, and an opportunity to showcase their talents.
To support the efforts on Team Vision, you can contact them on +91 97570 88108. You can also visit their Facebook page to volunteer as a writer for the visually challenged.