Altruistic Adventurers Help Bring Cataract Surgery to Villagers in India

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Relief Riders International (RRI) held its first “Give The Gift of Sight” cataract eye surgery clinic from February 22-24, 2006, in Rajasthan, India. Working with Dr. V. K. Gupta, RRI successfully provided sight-saving cataract eye surgery to 87 patients in the village of Mehansar.

The humanitarian-based Relief Riders International is pioneering a new form of adventure travel. Guests riding on horseback through the glorious Thar Desert of Rajasthan, India, participate in a vital medical and educational relief mission along the way. Using funds received from ride fees to purchase medical and school supplies and hire doctors who serve villagers at each camp, RRI organizes free medical clinics and distributes essential supplies to rural villagers.

Committed to serving the people of Rajasthan, Relief Riders International began organizing its Give the Gift of Sight program to provide cataract eye surgery in October 2005. Dr. Gupta, one of India’s leading eye surgeons, with more than 25 years experience over 7000 successful operations to his credit was selected to lead the medical team. On the first day of the eye clinic, 575 villagers with eye problems were screened, and 87 patients qualified for the cataract surgery.

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide. They are responsible for 81% of blindness in India, and there are an estimated 20,000 blind people living in Rajasthan. In Third World countries like India, a blind person, without family support, has an incredibly short life expectancy of about three years. One health report estimates that to eliminate cataract blindness in India, approximately 9 to 14 million professional cataract surgeries will be needed each year for several decades.

In addition to the eye clinic, Relief Riders International Executive Director Alexander Souri and his support team from the Indian Red Cross set up camps to provide basic medical care to over 2,500 villagers on this trip. Riders also distributed school supplies to 1200 children. Continuing its successful “Give A Goat Program,” goats were distributed to 57 needy families. RRI, in coordination with a professional theater group, provided HIV/AIDS education program.

While guests on these Relief Rides are often attracted by the chance to help people, the trip also promises a unique and rare opportunity to experience authentic India. At night guests enjoy meals by firelight and stay in 400-year-old forts and raj-style circular tents modeled on those used in the 1800s; during the day they are treated to spectacular desert views, where wind and shifting sands constantly reshape the vast dunes.

Because of RRI’s substantial contribution to rural India, Mr. Souri was invited to meet with President Kallam of India to update him on RRI’s health clinics, its school program, and the organization’s plans to combat blindness and AIDS.

Relief Riders International was named one of the winners of Outdoor Magazine’s Best Trips 2005 for its innovative mix of altruism and exciting adventure travel.

"From the very beginning,” Mr. Souri noted, “RRI has worked to combine travel with a humanitarian vision. We have brought school supplies and medical care to the population of Rajasthan. Our relief riders are inspired by the beauty of Rajasthan. Nothing would make us happier than to give somebody another opportunity to see the land they live in."


MEDIA CONTACT:Alexander Souri 413.329.5876

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