It was a program with a difference organized by the Lions International at the Sri V.D.Swami Auditorium on the 25th of July 2015, an evening when a differently ‘ABLED’ extraordinary young lady hand-held and ‘escorted’ a thrilled and amazed audience of seasoned eye care champions and supporters from the Lions Clubs and employees of a renowned eye care institution, down a little known pathway; she moved with the felicity of a person who knew her pathway and to those being led it was not a walk down a dark alley but a passage well lit and hurdle free, an eye opening trip which was enlightening, entertaining, educating and most importantly ‘Soul Stirring’.
The day’s proceedings got off with a warm welcome to the gathering, the special Chief Guest Ms. Khadija Hatim Yusufali, Lions District Governor Balaji Rathnam and his ‘Guru’ Lion G.V.Raman, by Lion S.N.Harinarayanan, he thanked the star speaker for her presence and the Lions for organizing a most meaningful program on ‘How a visually impaired person can live a meaningful and fulfilling life’.
Speaking on the occasion Lion G.V.Raman shared his experience with members of the ‘Academy of the Blind’ with the audience and lauded the visually impaired as a determined and confident lot, he expressed his wholehearted appreciation to Lion SN.Harinarayanan for propagating the cause of ‘Sight for the blind’. The senior Lion office bearer sprung a pleasant surprise to the audience by announcing that Lion Dr. SS.Badrinath, Founder & Chairman Emeritus, Sankara Nethralaya has been selected by Lions International for their highest and most coveted honour ‘Ambassador of Goodwill’ for the year 2015. He added that Dr. SS.Badrinath in his characteristic humility had expressed that the award was not for him as an individual but an acknowledgement for Sankara Nethralaya and hence any representative from the institution could receive it with pride. Lion G.V. Raman added that senior office bearers of the Lions International, Chicago chapter, which was conferring the honour were however very particular that they confer their highest distinction in person on the distinguished recipient on a later date, after his return from the USA.
Ms. Sarika Gopalkrishnan, Head, Low Vision Clinic, Sankara Nethralaya, an expert on low vision, a ‘Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry’, a selector for the ‘World Blind Cricket Council (WBCC) and an accomplished low vision care professional whose expertise is sought by the office of the State government’s Commission for the differently abled, in selecting low vision aids and a person passionately committed to the cause of enhancing the life of those with low vision complaints, was aptly chosen by the organizers of the function to introduce the most versatile Chief Guest and Star speaker of the day. Ms. Sarika gave a most touching account of the chief guest, describing her as a totally independent person, a perfect housewife, instructor and a role model; she shocked the audience with the amazing revelation that Ms.Khadija was an ace skydiver and mountaineer, who had scaled the snowy peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro. Ms. Sarika utilized the opportunity to express her deep and heartfelt gratitude to the Lions Club, particularly to Lion S.N Harinarayanan for their generous support, which made the LVC at Sankara Nethralaya a reality. Lion Harinarayanan made a brief intervention to the intro to give the audience a touching note on how Ms Khadija came to Chennai, tracing the request from Lion Ashok Mehta from South Africa seeking a Fellowship opening at Sankara Nethralaya for Dr. Hatim and his own role in taking up the case successfully with Dr. S.S.Badrinath.
The Chief Guest of the day began her speech by highlighting some disturbing figures on visual impairment and the encouraging fact that 85% of blindness is preventable and curable. She took the audience on a spellbinding trip on how a visually impaired person could lead a ‘better than normal life’; she enchanted her audience on how simple things like a thoughtfully placed rubber band on a tooth brush, the bubbling sound of boiling tea, Braille cloth tags differentiating colours of dresses, a colour indicating clip in a dress to the most advanced, built-in gesture based i-phone, GPS Apps, talking clock, i-phone camera which makes an announcement of the image being shot, Kurzweil scanning systems and joint access with speech (JAWS) apparatus could help a visually impaired person to not only live independently but also a fulfilling life of serving fellow human beings, in her role as a physiotherapist, adding that the person in question actively browses the internet and sends mails etc. Ms Khadija ended her most absorbing and moving talk with an earnest appeal for better rehabilitation services to the visually impaired.
Speaking on the occasion Lions District Governor Shi Balaji Rathnam described visually impaired people as people with ‘Supreme Vision’ and an ‘undying spirit’, he underlined that it was more important to be ‘humane’ than ‘human’. The Governor had a high word of appreciation for the Lions
Club of Central Madras and Lion Harinarayanan the tireless champion of the visually impaired; he explained that the Lions Club of Golden Vision donates support gadgets to the visually impaired at the Kola Perumal School. Speaking on the occasion Lion K.S.Babai gave an interesting account of a visually impaired faculty member of her college who had endeared herself to her students through her great work.
The most touching and absorbing function came to an end with a Vote of Thanks by Lion C.T.Natesan, to the Chief Guest Ms. Khadija Hatim Yusufally, Sankara Nethralaya, its staff members and the Lions members assembled in large numbers.