This week marks the seventh anniversary of the passing of Art Jenkyns, the founder of Operation Eyesight. Those of you who know our history know that Art was the driving force behind the organization from the beginning. When he died in 2005, he left a tremendous legacy that continues to inspire our work to this day – and into the future, I have no doubt.
I feel it’s important to speak about Art’s legacy every chance we get, and the anniversary of his passing is such an opportunity. He is, for us, a touchstone of what our work is about.
Art was inspired by the work of Dr. Ben Gullison, a Canadian physician working in India. Ben wanted to provide “the best for the poorest” – an idea that continues to energize Operation Eyesight. It certainly energized Art.
Back in 1963, when Ben asked if anyone would help him raise money to restore sight to India’s blind, Art and his friends in Calgary eagerly stepped forward. Operation Eyesight was created, and over the years many people have come and gone. But it was Art who continued stepping forward, across Canada and then across the globe with a message of healing for the blind.
It was a simple yet powerful message that boiled down to this: “We have the means and responsibility to help these people. We know there is a simple procedure to correct cataract blindness and we have an obligation as human beings to help our fellow man. We need to do this!”
Art was a businessman, not an eye doctor, yet he spoke accurately about the conditions that cause blindness and the means to cure or prevent it. But his gift was his passion – he was deeply moved by the plight of people already struggling with poverty who would then become blind. He was able to share his passion, and he was eager to speak to any person or group willing to hear him.
As a result, millions of dollars have come from generous donors over the years, and millions of people (yes, millions) have received treatment who would not have otherwise. It is a remarkable accomplishment, and so much of the credit goes to Art and his simple message.
Today, millions more need the same kind of help. However, these people are especially hard to reach; either due to geography or due to understanding. In the spirit of Art Jenkyns, Operation Eyesight continues to step forward in our efforts to reach everyone in danger of blindness and low vision. If this inspires you, please act on it without delay.
Art says thanks.