"From the Eyes of Buddha" - Curing Blindness in Nepal
The story of lives changed by Nepali doctors and eye bank managers who overcame the religious and social perceptions of eye donation.
This campaign would fund the basic travel costs, interpreter costs, and some editing of the documentary "From the Eyes of Buddha." We appreciate your support!
In 2006, I was intrigued by the Nepal Eye Bank, a part of the Tilganga Eye Institute in Kathmandu, Nepal. Over the past years with support from the Himalayan Cataract Project, the eye bank managers and the eye doctors, Dr. Sanduk Ruit and Dr. Reeta Gurung, started the long journey of improving the problem of corneal blindness, which included not only only public awareness, but also the challenge of changing attitudes of society and the Buddhist and Hindu religious leaders about corneal donations after death.
They noticed early that the Western model of tissue donation would not work: people rarely died in hospitals. Instead, they passed away at home and were immediately brought to the Hindu and Buddhist temples for cremation.
This situation led to an interesting intersection of healthcare and religion, and after some time, religious leaders became more convinced that the donation of one's corneas (the thin outer portion of the eye), would not make the donor blind in the next life. Now with improved access by the gatekeepers, the eye bank still faces challenges of society's biases and the difficulty in making the trek to and from the Eye Institute from long distances.
In 2011, three families in Nepal, along with the team members of the Nepal Eye Bank, allowed the filming of the corneal extractions of their loved ones during the sacred funerals at the Hindu temple (and with the families' written consent). The corneas were followed into surgery and into the lives of several lovely people, including Jasima, a 17-year old from the Indian border, and Dhaka, a water-buffalo tending woman from five days away from the capital. The goal to complete the stories of these people consists of returning (about ten months after surgery) to see them in their new lives.
- (7 days)