I never imagined that by swimming, a Vision Center in India would be built. And I certainly never thought so many people could be cured of blindness there.
For the past twelve years of my life, my passion has been competitive swimming. Mile after mile I train almost every single day in the hope of becoming that much faster, that much more powerful in the water, that much closer to my goals. (My classmates tell me I am better adapted to live in the water than on land!) I have reached more athletic goals than I ever imagined when I first splashed into the water as a timid six-year old. I have won several Texas state titles, been ranked nationally in both the US and the UK, set numerous International Schools Tournament records, and captained both my school and club swim teams.
This past year, I decided to combine my love of swimming with a fundraising target. My older brother worked as an intern on the Flying Eye Hospital run by the international sight-saving charity ORBIS. I was horrified by his description of the magnitude of curable, but untreated eye diseases. I knew I had to take action. To help those who have or will lose their sight for no fault of their own, my triplet siblings and I organized, planned, publicized, and successfully led a community-wide Swim-a-thon that raised funds for ORBIS. The goal of our event was not only to raise funds for this very worthwhile cause, but more importantly, to raise awareness about avoidable blindness. Our theme “Every minute a child goes blind”, caught the attention of the community. The word spread. People were surprised to know that we have the medical capability to cure millions of people with a simple surgery or eye droplets, yet hundreds of people lose their sight every day.
As a two-year class vice president and student member of the Athletic Advisory Board, I was able to gain permission from the Head of School to plan the event. I convinced the Athletic Director to set aside pool time and recruited life guards. In order to garner support, I placed ads in the school newspaper, hung posters throughout my school, and persuaded my coach to replace an afternoon workout with the Swim-a-thon. After weeks of preparation, swim mates, school faculty, and parents logged thousands of laps.
It was an immensely successful day. Enough money was collected to build a Vision Center in India, with surgical equipment, medicines, and training materials. The new Vision Center will not
only treat thousands of patients, but will create a permanent site to train doctors and other medical personnel. As Treasurer of my school’s chapter of the National Honor Society, I plan to allocate charity funds this year to ORBIS for the continuing operational costs of the Vision Center. Every minute a child goes blind. Thirty-seven million people in the world are blind. Remarkably, an overwhelming 28 million of them do not need to be. When I think about the Vision Center we funded, I am overwhelmed with a sense of accomplishment and pride. Even though I will never meet the many people who will receive medical treatment there, the satisfaction of knowing that I have helped change the lives of thousands of people is astonishing. More meaningful than any swim race or trophy, we have brought hope where there was darkness.