The accomplishments and future plans of the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation

The Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation was set up in March 2021 with one mission - to put an end to needless blindness in developing countries.

Founded by philanthropist and investor, Mr Tej Kohli, and ophthalmologist and world-renowned eye surgeon, Dr Sanduk Ruit, the foundation has made significant progress since its inception - both in the number of surgeries completed and the rise in awareness of cataracts in developing countries.

Mr Kohli was made aware of the troubling statistics that show that nearly 90% of the world’s blind live in low-income countries, where blindness is both a cause and effect of extreme poverty. Having a history of working with curing cataracts in India through the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute, Mr Kohli understood that needless blindness is most often caused by avoidable cataract blindness. 95 million people worldwide are affected by cataracts and by investing in quality and accessible eye care, communities can be transformed and ridded of extreme poverty.

Dr Ruit, also known as the “God of Sight”, believes that access to good sight and eye care is a right that everyone, no matter their nationality or socioeconomic status, should be entitled to. Born in a village at the foothills of Mount Kanchenjunga in Nepal, Dr Ruit was inspired to study medicine after tragically losing his younger sister at age 15 to a severe case of tuberculosis. Sadly, this case could have been prevented with effective medical treatments, something that was, and is still, hard to come by in remote villages in Nepal.

In the communities that the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation has worked with, there are various barriers to cataract surgery that exist. These include cultural traditions and gender roles, both of which exacerbate pre-existing problems with education levels amongst rural populations. Women are less likely to travel outside of their villages to hospitals due to the roles they take on in the home and the lack of financial freedom they have as men tend to take on the breadwinner role. Women in places like rural Nepal often have low literacy rates which results in a lack of knowledge of healthcare and therefore tend to believe that losing their eyesight is an unchangeable problem.

The foundation recently focussed on Nepal’s Chepang community. The Chepang people are some of the most marginalised communities in the world and due to their nomadic lifestyle, are often isolated entirely from the rest of the world. The community scores very low on the Human Development Index which measures standard of living and life expectancy rates, both of which are low for Chepang people due to low access to healthcare and education. Following Dr Ruit’s belief that eye health should be accessible to everyone, the foundation screened 2822 and cured 369 people in the community of needless cataract blindness in September this year.

The methods that the foundation uses are more affordable and can be achieved at a faster rate than Western methods. This method, developed by Dr Ruit over his years of experience, is a small-incision cataract surgery (SICS) on the eyeball and removing the cataract lens and replacing it with a donor lens. Presently, there are over 50 doctors in connection with the foundation who have been taught Dr Ruit’s techniques, leading to a future that will consist of more surgeries and awareness of how cataracts can be treated.

By combining Mr Kohli’s philanthropic nature and experience with grassroots charities with Dr Ruit’s masterful skills, the pair’s foundation has treated over 18,000 patients for their cataracts in Nepal, Bhutan and recently Ghana. The direct success of the work on the foundation can be read on the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation’s medium.com blog, where patient stories such as Singye’s story, which can be found here.

In just over 18 months, the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation has seen wonderful success, including a partnership with Bhutan’s Ministry of Health where both sides have pledged to complete 1,000 cataract surgeries a year until 2026, with the aim of eradicating cataract blindness in the country over the next five years. The Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation is planning future outreach camps in areas of South America and other South Asian countries. An exciting trip coming up is an outreach camp to Dr Ruit’s hometown in a remote village in Nepal. Needing two days of travelling to get there, the community that resides there is very remote and has low access to many services, therefore possessing little knowledge of cataracts and how it can be treated.

With no plans to stop anytime soon, the foundation’s goal of ending needless cataract blindness and extreme poverty is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN. With expansions in the works, the foundation hopes to achieve its goal of curing 300,000 - 500,00 people by 2030 and is on the way to achieving that.

The Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation Collective Fund is a restricted fund operating under the auspices of Prism the Gift Fund, Registered UK Charity Number: 1099682.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by The Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation .

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