While it is easy to focus on acts of extreme barbarity — which seem all too-common given our natural bias for the negative and sensational — the world is full of unsung heroes, often obscure, who devote their lives towards living up to the best of human potential.
One such figure is Dr. Sanduk Ruit of Nepal, who has devoted the past three decades to providing vital eye care to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations, as well as imparting his valuable knowledge to eye surgeons in the developing world. As CNN reports:
Driven by a belief that the world’s poorest people deserve safe, affordable and high-quality eye care just as much as anyone else, Ruit has made it his mission to eradicate avoidable blindness.
In 1994, he joined the late Australian ophthalmologist and philanthropist Fred Hollows, who was his mentor and close friend, in establishing Tilganga — an eye hospital in Kathmandu dedicated to providing world-class eye care to the people of Nepal.
The hospital manufactures state-of-the-art lenses that are commonly used in treating cataracts or myopia, and exports them to more than 30 countries worldwide.
For those who cannot reach urban areas, Ruit and his team conduct mobile eye camps in remote parts of Nepal and neighboring countries, often trekking for days and cleaning out structures like tents, classrooms or even animal stables for use as temporary operating theaters.
When the eye patches come off the day after an operation, it’s an incredibly moving moment for all involved.
You can imagine how powerful it is to witness formerly blind people finally seeing their loved ones for the first time in years. Ruit has even managed to offer his miraculous services to infamously isolated North Korea, circumventing politics for the greater good.
Moreover, Ruit’s work helps entire communities thrive, since fully-blind individuals require constant care and attention that most loved ones cannot afford. By restoring sight, he is helping alleviate the suffering of more than just the patient.
His motivation and attitude for his work are as touching as you would guess:
Ruit grew up in a small village in the Himalayas so isolated that the nearest school was a week’s walk away. When he was 17, his sister died of tuberculosis despite the disease being treatable. The loss left Ruit with a sense of urgency to pursue a path that benefited others, not only himself.
It’s a decision he doesn’t regret.
“I am so grateful that I can make a difference in so many people’s lives,” Ruit said.
At 59, that same sense of urgency that motivated him as a young man remains. When asked what it feels like to watch as a patient sees the world clearly the first time, he responded: “It really recharges you and makes you move forward.”
But he cautioned that there remains so much he wants to do.
Indeed, as the CNN piece notes, most of the eye conditions that afflict Ruit’s patients are preventable, stemming mostly from poverty and lack of access to public health services. An estimated 39 million people are blind worldwide, of whom 90 percent live in low-income areas and 80 percent suffer from conditions that can be prevented or cured. Selfless humanitarians like Ruit are certainly doing their part, but the systemic causes will need to be addressed to prevent so much needless suffering.