Wisconsin Philanthropists Pledge $300,000 to Support Combat Blindness International

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Suresh Chandra

Madison, Wis.—Prominent community leaders and philanthropists, Diane Ballweg and The Hurckman Family Foundation in partnership with Hurckman Mechanical Industries have each pledged $50,000 a year for the next three years (totaling $300,000) to support Combat Blindness International’s Certified Ophthalmic Paramedical (COP) Training Program in India and its expansion.

The COP program trains young women from rural India to become ophthalmic technicians and nurses and empowering women through education and employment, increasing access to care. These gifts provide a secure foundation for expanding the COP Program.

In honor of Combat Blindness International’s 35th Anniversary and World Sight Day 2019, the donors created a $100,000 match to encourage other compassionate donors to support CBI’s work.  World Sight Day (WSD) is an annual day of awareness to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment. On Thursday, October 10, 2019, CBI will celebrate World Sight Day with a gala at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison, Wisconsin from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm.

“We are so grateful to friends like Diane Ballweg, John and Amy Hurckman, The Hurckman Family Foundation and Hurckman Mechanical Industries for making such a commitment to CBI’s COP Program,” says Dr. Suresh Chandra, Founder and Chairman of Combat Blindness International.  “Gift like these are truly transformational to an organization like ours.”

“For the past 15 years we have supported Combat Blindness International. We are confident in its working model and the staff-monitored results that contribute to combating preventable blindness around the world”, says John Hurckman.

Diane Ballweg adds, “People give to people, and one of the main reasons to support CBI is in getting to know the dedicated people involved, the Chandra family, and their passion and mission to make the world a better place for so many people, providing hope and compassion.”

Over the last 35 years, Combat Blindness International has supported the eye screenings of over 2.2 million men, women and children and over 370,000 surgeries around the world – spanning 15 countries on 4 continents. CBI’s founder, Dr. Suresh Chandra, envisioned the organizations mission in 1984 and has spent his life working to alleviate preventable blindness in low-income countries.

To learn more about Combat Blindness International and the innovative COP program, go to https://www.combatblindness.org/certified-ophthalmic-paramedic/

John Hurckman and Diane Ballweg traveled with Dr. Chandra to India in 2018.  Through this experience, they observed firsthand CBI’s cataract screening and surgical program in a city hospital and rural outreach screening program.  In addition, they learned about the Certified Ophthalmic Paramedic (COP) Training Program, including touring their classrooms, observing the students in clinical and outreach settings and talking with students about the program.

Our creative imaginations and words themselves can barely touch the reality of India. Every person who experiences it will take away something truly extraordinary…,” recalls Hurckman. “Our Foundation chooses to  support the Certified Ophthalmic Paramedic Program as our visit to India demonstrated that this program not only elevated women’s opportunities, but it showed us how the work of a graduate enhances and optimizes the surgeon’s skills.”

“It was an amazing experience,” remembers Ballweg.  She chose to support the COPS program because it “combines good health practices, but also trains young women in a profession providing them jobs that are sustainable and enabling economic income and stability.”

Combat Blindness International (CBI) is a 501(c)(3) dedicated to eliminating preventable blindness worldwide by providing sustainable, equitable solutions for sight through partnerships and innovation. Founded in 1984 by Dr. Suresh Chandra, Emeritus Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, CBI partners with indigenous hospitals and health systems to screen and treat adults and children suffering from avoidable blindness and increase access to ophthalmic and cataract care internationally. In addition, CBI serves as an incubator for programs and partnerships with the goal of creating sustainable capacity and infrastructure globally and educate and train technicians and ophthalmologist to increase the health care workforce in partner countries. Over the last 35 years, CBI has supported projects in 15 countries on 4 continents including in India, Botswana, Paraguay, Brazil, Kenya, Gambia, Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, Lebanon, South Africa, Nigeria, Mali, Namibia and the United States. Combat Blindness International also serves as council member of Vision 2020: Right to Sight—a global joint initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO) and International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).

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