Bankers embark on bike expedition to tackle blindness

Mumbai, June 15 (IANS) Ten staffers of Standard Chartered Bank have embarked on a unique 4,000-km-long journey on motorcycles to mark a decade of the bank’s global programme challenging blindness, an official said here Saturday.

The staffers will undertake the journey from Mumbai to Khardung La in Ladakh, the highest motorable road in the world, to raise funds for the SCB’s ‘Seeing Is Believing’ international project aimed at tackling avoidable blindness and visual impairment.

‘Tough Trails – 7 Steps To Khardung La’, as the challenge is titled, was flagged off here Friday by Sunil Kaushal, SCB’s regional CEO-India and South Asia.

The bikers will travel through nine Indian states and union territories with temperatures swinging from highs of 48 degrees Celsius to sub-zero. The expedition would test the courage, endurance and determination of the staffers, said Kaushal.

En route, the 10 will visit vision centres and primary health care facilities for eye health and motivate people and organisations to donate towards the cause of ‘Seeing Is Believing’. The SCB will match all donations, dollar for dollar.

“We look beyond philanthropy and focus on helping communities and embedding sustainability across all our processes. Our ability to create sustained value is intrinsically linked to the health and prosperity of the communities in which we operate,” Kaushal said of SCB, the largest international bank operating in India with 99 branches in 42 cities.

Besides, the 10 staffers will also take part in various community initiatives like helping paint village schools, afforestion, cleaning up eight high altitude mountain passes of plastic wastes, distributing warm clothes and conducting the first level of eye testing, organising workshops on AIDS, water conservation and green habits.

Launched in 2003, the SCB’s ‘Seeing Is Beleiving’ programme is carried out in collaboration with the International Agency for Prevention of Blindness to fund sustainable eye-care services in poor areas across the world.

It has grown into a multi-million dollar programme touching over 41 million people across the world so far.

In India, it has benefited more than three million people so far. Under the programme, over one million have been screened, more than 50,000 given spectacles, around 50,000 given primary eye care treatment and training.

The project involved about 1,200 health workers and medical professionals through 72 centres in 10 states at a cost of $4.9 million.

The bank has committed additional spends of $6 million until 2020.

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