Digital Campaign of the Week: Sightsavers

The international sight-loss charity broadcast a cataract operation live from Malawi to kick off its latest fundraising campaign

Cataract operation in Malawi
Cataract operation in Malawi

What is it?

The international sight-loss charity Sightsavers broadcast a live cataract operation from Malawi to launch its largest-ever appeal, A Million Miracles, through which it aims to raise £30m to provide a million sight-saving operations for people in developing countries. The surgery was broadcast on Google+ and on the charity's dedicated website www.millionmiracles.org.

See the Miracle showed 69-year-old Winesi March, who had been blind for two years, undergo surgery on 8 October. On 9 October, World Sight Day, footage of March’s bandages being removed was also broadcast and showed him seeing his baby grandson for the first time.

What else?

The online broadcast was hosted by Doug Armstrong, a YouTube video blogger, who fielded questions from the global audience via a Google Hangout. Dr Gerald Msukwa, an ophthalmologist in Malawi, talked the audience through the procedure.

How did the broadcast go?

The live streaming from the operating theatre on 8 October went reasonably smoothly, although at times it was difficult to hear some of the contributors.  But the plan to do a live stream of March's bandages being removed on World Sight Day did not go ahead because a satellite link in Malawi went down thanks to a power cut. The footage was later placed online. The operation has been viewed 2,500 times and the campaign has raised £18,500 so far.  

Third Sector verdict

Not being able to watch live footage of March see for the first time in two years was something of a disappointment. But it was a bold and ambitious way of launching a global fundraising campaign, and watching the surgeon remove the cataract made compelling live viewing. Overall, it was a highly memorable way to launch a campaign that displayed both bravery and creativity. 

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