Focus: Campaign of the week - Watch out for the big eye opener

Georgina Lock, georgina.lock@haynet.com

Three-quarters of the 37 million cases of blindness in the world could have been prevented or may still be cured. That's the message Sight Savers International will convey in its first major awareness and fundraising campaign.

The Big Eye Opener, which was launched last week, will highlight the fact that most blind people live in the world's poorest countries. It is focusing particularly on Bangladesh, where it is embarking on a "race against time" to restore the sight of 10,000 children blighted by cataracts.

Throughout the campaign, the charity drives home the message that it must reach these children before they turn seven, because after that it is unlikely they will be able to see properly again.

Sight Savers has enlisted celebrity support from Joanna Lumley, star of Absolutely Fabulous, for the campaign, which will be made up of a substantial direct marketing and advertising drive, a website and special school assemblies.

After returning from Bangladesh, where she visited several projects supported by the charity, Lumley said: "I can't imagine a more moving or humbling experience than witnessing a child being able to see for the first time in their lives."

The direct marketing and advertising activity will include hundreds of posters on display throughout the UK, thousands of postcards distributed to venues such as cinemas and health clubs and almost two million Big Eye Opener leaflets dropped through letterboxes over the summer. The Big Eye Opener website has separate sections for children and adults, containing details of the campaign.

Schools and children, as well as office staff across the UK, are being encouraged to take part in coffee-morning fundraisers using customised mugs that produce an image on the outside when hot water is poured into them. Children are invited to illustrate their favourite eye-opening sight in a nationwide competition.

The charity hopes that showing people how easily the problems can be solved will make them keen to put their hands in their pockets.

Sight Savers chief executive Caroline Harper said: "Sight Savers hopes to open people's eyes to the scale of avoidable blindness and show how easy and cost-effective it is to address. In the campaign are objectives that focus on raising the organisation's profile and raising funds for our work to address avoidable blindness worldwide."

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